Saturday, July 20, 2024

Talking Baseball with Williamsburg’s Wayne Kirby

Wayne Kirby, New York Mets first base coach (New York Mets)

WILLIAMSBURG — Wayne Kirby lives his life on the baseball diamond. But it wasn’t always about baseball.

“I played a lot of sports, that’s all me and my siblings did. We stayed active, my parents kept us active. I didn’t have time to do much else except homework, play sports, and get going,” Kirby said.

The Kirby kids spent a lot of time playing backyard sports, with everyone in the family joining in. The family owned a big chunk of land, he said, so the Kirby boys were always playing something.

During his time in high school, Kirby played football and baseball. After attending a baseball tryout camp at the request of his Tabb High School baseball coach, Kirby came home to three college offers to play baseball. He ended up choosing to attend Newport News Apprentice School.

Kirby was selected in the 1983 amateur draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He saw action in 60 games with the 1983 Gulf Coast League Dodgers and had 23 stolen bases and 13 RBIs. He continued to play for minor league teams in the Dodgers organization through the 1990 season.

After becoming a free agent in the 1991 season, Kirby joined the Cleveland Indians minor league organization with the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The big leagues came calling in September of 1991, as the Indians made his Major League Baseball dreams come true as he played in 21 games for the club.

“When I first signed, I remember that those pitchers in Saint Petersburg were throwing a lot harder than I’d ever seen before,” Kirby said. “It was at that moment I said to myself ‘I have to get better’.”

He officially hung up the cleats in 1998 after eight years in the pros. Or so he thought.

Wayne Kirby, left, shakes hands with Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar in the New York Mets dugout (New York Mets)

Staying around the game of baseball was important to Kirby, so when the coaching opportunity arose, he couldn’t say no. His coaching career began with the Baltimore Orioles, before he headed west to the San Diego Padres. Now he’s come back to the east coast as the first base coach for the New York Mets.

Training the next generation of major league talent is something that Kirby doesn’t take lightly. While it’s part teaching proper hitting and fielding techniques, it’s also about teaching the love and respect of the game.

“I love teaching the game, both the right things and the wrong things. I love preparing kids for what they are going to face at the highest level. It’s all about the game inside the game but honing in on the fundamental part. Once you start teaching them that, you can move into teaching the respect of the game,” Kirby said.

Even with teaching the fundamentals and the ins and outs of America’s pastime, Kirby is a firm believer that you must believe in your own talent and work hard.

“You have to have confidence in yourself. This game is a game of failures and sometimes we don’t know how to handle failure. You have to believe that you can do it in order to do it,” Kirby said.

Major League Baseball and Kirby will kick off opening day celebrations on Thursday, March 30, as the New York Mets take on the Miami Marlins at 4:10 p.m. in Miami. Opening day celebrations in New York will take place when the team opens its first home-stand of the season April 6.

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