ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier owns the most recognizable nickname for anybody on the Rays: "The Outlaw."Kiermaier likes the name, and he owns up to it being somewhat self-proclaimed, but the relevance of the nickname means something different to Kiermaier than the perception.:: Players' Weekend presented by
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier owns the most recognizable nickname for anybody on the Rays: "The Outlaw."
Kiermaier likes the name, and he owns up to it being somewhat self-proclaimed, but the relevance of the nickname means something different to Kiermaier than the perception.
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Kiermaier tells the story of how his nickname originated in 2011. He was playing in the Midwest League and was experiencing "probably the best defensive season I ever had," when a coordinator from another organization approached him around a community coffee pot.
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"He said, 'I've never seen anyone with less than a year of pro ball play on defense the way you do, I love it, you're like an outlaw out there. You just do your own thing and you know that you're a bad man out there, and you do what you have to do,'" Kiermaier said.
Kiermaier told the coordinator he kind of liked "Outlaw" adding, "I might have to claim that."
When Kiermaier returned to the clubhouse, he told his teammates he would be "The Outlaw" going forward.
"They just all laughed at me, because I'm a class clown anyway," Kiermaier said. "They're like, 'OK, Kiermaier. This is just another day in the life of you being you.' The name kind of stuck with me and the Rays really made it take off. A lot of fans call me Outlaw. And it's fun for me."
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To Kiermaier, the nickname celebrates him not being afraid to be himself.
"I do not do what other people do just because it's a popular thing," Kiermaier said. "And I think that's cool because our generation now, everyone is so caught up in what everyone else is doing. And you see so many trends that people do because millions of other people are doing it on social media, or whatever.
"When it comes to baseball, I'm an outlaw in a sense. Because I stick to what I want to do, what I need to do, what I know is needed of me."
Kiermaier took his approach after struggling early in his career while "trying to hit the way other people wanted me to hit."
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"And it got to the point where I had a sitdown with myself and said, 'I'm not going to fail in the game I love doing it someone else's way,'" he said. "If I get released, I get released. But I have to go up there and play my game. And I made that decision back in 2012, and then I went to the Fall League that year and broke out.
"Anyway, 'Outlaw' is me being me. And being comfortable with that. And not following stereotypes, or what the hot trends are."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.