Sox’s Simmons having one ‘sick’ season
BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO– Times have changed and so have the meanings of many words. To be sick now is a good thing.
So it makes perfect sense that Reno Silver Sox left fielder Kane Simmons entrance music comes off a CD called “The Sickness,” by hard-rock group Disturbed.
Although the name of the song the 23-year-old Simmons, of Chattanooga, Tenn., actually hears when he comes to the plate is “Voices,” it somehow seems more fitting to say that the hard-hitting, free-swinging Belmont University (Nashville) product is playing pretty sick right now.
The rookie leads both the fourth-place Silver Sox and the Golden Baseball League with 13 home runs and is carrying a .339 batting average through 31 games. Simmons also has 37 runs batted in and a .719 slugging percentage since getting a phone call from Sox skipper Les Lancaster.
“He’s brought some life to this team for being a rookie,” Lancaster said before a Reno-Orange County game last week. “He comes in swinging. He’s still learning the game – especially when he faces good pitching staffs. He’s trying to make adjustments. He’s got a lot of raw talent that needs to be harnessed.”
A NEW POSITION
Even before heading off to Belmont, where he would earn a degree in exercise science, the soft-spoken Simmons was making his presence felt at Baylor High School, in Chattanooga.
“I was actually a pitcher and second outfielder,” the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Simmons said. “I was looking at getting drafted out of high school.”
But labrum surgery after his senior year put an end to his pitching – the left-handed Simmons said he topped out at 87-88 miles per hour – and he was able to turn that negative into a positive.
“Unless I went (to the Major Leagues) in the first five rounds, I wanted to go to a four-year college,” Simmons said. “Surgery solidified that. I was a designated hitter in my senior year in high school. I rehabbed all throughout. Then, through surgery, rehab helped.”
Although Belmont recruited Simmons as a pitcher, Simmons said his arm didn’t feel good again for a year following surgery and he ended up playing center field for the Bruins before moving to left beginning his junior year.
New position or not, Simmons was still drawing some interest from the big leagues, although he remained undrafted.
“His agent (Jeff McCall) called me and said (Simmons) got overlooked in the draft and that several teams had talked to him,” Lancaster said. “Once we put him in the lineup, he just took off.
“He has power to all parts of the field. He’s not just a one-dimensional player. He’s got to improve a bit on his balls-to-strikes ratio and get more walks. That will come in time.”
PUMP YOU UP
While playing in the major leagues remains a goal for Simmons, he has a Plan B. A pure athlete (he also wrestled and played soccer, football and tennis in high school), Simmons enjoys the process of staying in shape and would like to help others get there as well.
“Personal training is one of the jobs you can get with an exercise science major,” he said. “I’ve always loved being in the weight room. I think it would be fun to get a new client and work with people. I’m a people person. I think I would do well with it.”
Simmons said he’s trying to save up the $250 necessary to take the test to get certified by American College of Sports Medicine, something which he said would allow him to get into most gyms.
Applying the science of exercise to himself, Simmons said he isn’t into lifting heavy weights and prefers to exercise with dumbbells and light free weights.
“I think it helps out with baseball if you do it the right way,” Simmons said of weight training. “You don’t have to go for bulk, but the weight room is the only way to get strong and improve with baseball. I try and keep my flexibility.”
Simmons got a little boost during Reno’s three-game homestand against Orange County, when his father, Brad Simmons, traveled from Tennessee to watch him play. Simmons also has a younger brother – 20-year-old Logan – who is now playing at Belmont after two years at Division-II Carson Newman, in Johnson City, Tenn. Logan is a pitcher.
“We’re pretty close,” Simmons said of his family. “I’m glad to have some family here. I can be anywhere and miss my family. I’ve been a little bit lonely. There’s nothing else to do but come here (to Peccole Park) and hit and lift. Then I go home and sleep and eat.”
Simmons and fellow Silver Sox rookie Sam Walker live with a host family in a large Sparks house owned by Mike Von Blaircom, where they play the alien-shooting video game “Halo,” watch TV, sleep late and head to Peccole.
Simmons’ life will get a little less lonely in October, when he marries his fiancee, Kendall Kaelin, whom he met as a junior in high school.
Simmons said he and Kaelin have a lot in common.
“We’re both ambitious people. We both understand that,” Simmons said. “She’s in New York. She’s an interior designer in Manhattan. She graduated at the top of her class. She’s the next big thing in her profession.
“What’s been good is that we didn’t go to the same college. She went to the University of Georgia. We haven’t had any problems along the way, no bumps in the road. It’s worked out.”
THE NEXT STEP
With Kaelin (who is originally from Kentucky) making a name for herself in her profession, Simmons is looking to join his future wife by becoming the next big thing in his. And he’s getting quite a bit of help from his new teammates and coaches.
“I’ve never had a hitting coach (Mike Done) or people that have been in the minors to work for before.” Simmons said. “Mike Done has helped me out a lot with hitting. Les is a great manager. Vic (Victor Hall) is a great outfielder. I haven’t been where they’ve been. Hopefully, I will. The only way is to learn from them and get better.”
Lancaster said Simmons may have a bright future.
“He helps out a lot in left,” Lancaster said. “On his arm strength there’s room for improvement with his mechanics. But I definitely feel someone should give him a shot in an organization.”
Simmons, a self-described “easy-going” guy who gets pumped up by some good hard-rock, thinks he knows what it will take to get to the next level.
“In the outfield, it’s just (a matter of) reading the ball,” Simmons said. “Then hitting the inside pitch. Staying consistent is the big thing. If you’re consistent and teams like you, they’ll keep you around. All I need is to get into the minor leagues and go from there.
“My fiancee doesn’t care where I go. I have to make income from something. Baseball would be a great way to do that.”
In fact, it would be downright sick. In a good way, that is.