'He's like Spider-Man out there': Kiermaier makes stellar catch in new outfield

April 12th, 2023

TORONTO -- looks at the short wall in center field like a home-run hitter looks at a short porch, and he wasted no time shocking Rogers Centre with his first highlight-reel grab in the second inning of the Blue Jays’ home opener against the Tigers on Tuesday night.

As a Statcast-tracked 404-foot fly ball from Kerry Carpenter drifted just to the left of the “400” sign in straightaway center, Kiermaier looked like he was hunting. Flipping his head to check the distance between himself and a wall that was only in its second inning of existence, Kiermaier was going on instincts and athleticism alone when he jumped high to rob the Tigers of a home run.

For years, the Blue Jays had their own Superman in Kevin Pillar. Now, in Tuesday’s 9-3 win, they’ve found another superhero to marvel at.

“He’s like Spider-Man out there,” said starter . “He’s all over the place.”

Carpenter was less enthused to see Kiermaier’s web-slinging ways.

“When he reacted, I was like, 'No way he came down with that,’” Carpenter said. “But then he like yelled or something and I was like, 'Man, I think he got it.'”

These are the exact moments the Blue Jays spent so many years on the other side of, but they are now seeing it firsthand as an advantage from one of the game’s most talented outfield defenders.

Prior to the game, manager John Schneider discussed the new dimensions at Rogers Centre -- which made this incredible catch possible -- and he was asked how many times he’d envisioned Kiermaier climbing the wall in center.

“A few,” Schneider said with a laugh. “I know he’s done that over the course of his career. ... I think that it plays to his game a little bit. He was a little early on one in Anaheim and Varsho almost brought one back in Anaheim. I think that added dynamic is pretty cool out there.”

Kiermaier is eager to show he’s not just a man with a glove, though.

In the fifth inning on Tuesday, Kiermaier turned on a Matt Manning fastball and pulled it 390 feet over the wall in right field for his first home run of the season. The left-handed hitter has prided himself on turning the lineup over, saying time and again that he wants to be “the best No. 9 hitter in baseball,” but there’s still some pop in that bat.

“I’ve been trying to work my butt off and take that next step as an offensive player this year,” Kiermaier said. “In the nine-hole, I’m not trying to do too much. I might hit for power every now and then, but my game plan is to get on base for the top of the order. That’s all I want to do. These guys believe in me and they’re bringing out the best in me. I just want to give it right back to everyone. This is so fun to be a part of.”

By the time Kiermaier reached the end of the dugout, celebrating with teammates, had taken the next pitch deep. Kiermaier went bounding up the steps, leaping onto the field to celebrate the man behind him.