Before Ohtani, Kieschnick did it all for Brewers

Big right-hander was two-way player for two seasons in Milwaukee

December 16th, 2017

It's every baseball-loving kid's dream. Imagine not only making it to the Major Leagues, but being allowed to do everything you did on those Little League fields with 200-foot fences when you were 9 years old -- hitting, pitching, fielding and hardly ever leaving the diamond.
For parts of two years, Brooks Kieschnick got to do it. And now, in the wake of the imminent arrival of Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani to MLB, the former Milwaukee Brewer is being recognized as the last one to do it.

And it's almost like Kieschnick still can't believe it actually happened.
"I wanted to be on the field," said Kieschnick, now 45. "I didn't care. Let me catch. Whatever. I'd do anything. I just wanted to play."
And that's what Kieschnick did while growing up. A lot.
Kieschnick was a two-way star at the University of Texas from 1991-93, an accomplished college hitter (43 home runs, 215 RBIs, 1.148 OPS) and pitcher (34-8, 3.05 ERA) who won two Dick Howser NCAA Player of the Year honors. He was drafted No. 10 overall by the Cubs in 1993 and made it to the big leagues as a hitter, getting 32 plate appearances in '96. He played in 39 games with Chicago in '97 and had stints as a hitter with the Reds in 2000 and the Rockies in '01, but he eventually realized that his offense was not going to keep him in the Majors.

In fact, it might not have kept Kieschnick in the affiliated Minors.
"I had to do something," Kieschnick said. "I had to make myself more valuable. I pitched in college, and my arm was rested for 10 years, so that's what I wanted to do. I made the decision myself. If I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it."
Fortunately, the White Sox gave him the chance in Triple-A, allowing him to pitch and hit in the DH role. That was the only way he could have made it back.
"Otherwise, I was going to independent ball," said Kieschnick. "I had zero to lose."
The experiment in the high Minors led to the Brewers picking up Kieschnick and letting him pitch in the Majors in 2003 and '04.

"He earned it," said Jack Zduriencik, the Brewers' scouting director at the time. "He excelled at both positions in college, so it wasn't a real stretch of the imagination to think that he might be able to do it in pro ball.
"And he did it. He did a really nice job at both things."

Kieschnick also created some excitement for a few Brewers teams that had losing records. He slashed .300/.355/.614 with seven homers and 12 RBIs in 70 at-bats as a part-time outfielder, pinch-hitter and designated hitter in 2003, becoming the first player to go deep as a pitcher, DH and pinch-hitter in the same season. He also appeared in 42 games as a pitcher, striking out 39 batters in 53 innings.
In 2004, Kieschnick slashed .270/.324/.365 with one homer and seven RBIs in 63 at-bats while becoming a bit of a force from the bullpen, posting a 3.77 ERA in 43 innings (32 appearances).
"I don't think people realize how hard it is to be a Major League player in the first place," said former left-hander Glendon Rusch, who was Kieschnick's teammate in Milwaukee in '03. "And he did both [pitching and playing the field], and he did them well. It was awesome to see and awesome to be a part of. Just something really memorable, even though the team wasn't the greatest."

Now, the Ohtani era looms, and the excitement is building for the baseball world to find out how sensational he really is and see if his multi-faceted game will change the dynamics of building rosters.
Kieschnick is as eager as anyone to watch it unfold.
"This kid is a ballplayer, first and foremost," Kieschnick said. "And that's really what it's all about. I'm sure he's not worried about being the best pitcher or the best hitter. He's just going out and playing and being the best ballplayer he can be.
"And that's really cool."