Kevin Pillar Tells All: A Trip To The Major Leagues

by John Rich | Posted on Friday, December 13th, 2013
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Many of us will never know what it’s like to literally feel the roar of a crowd as we walk out onto an on-deck circle, or step into the batter’s box and smell the pine tar emanating from a baseball bat. The chance to have a Major League at-bat against the best of the best. The opportunity to have fun for a living and make a name for yourself among the greatest who ever played the game. These are the things that kids dream of.

One man is right in the middle of having that chance and he’s trying to do everything he can to stamp his name into a Major League roster; for good.  That man is Kevin Pillar
Pillar, born January 4, 1989, grew up in West Hills, CA.  He attended High School at Chaminade College Preparatory School in West Hills and later California State University in Carson, CA.  Pillar was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the 2011 amateur draft and was subsequently signed on June 12, 2011.  Like most signed amateurs he began the long process of doing his time in minor league stints, one day hoping for the chance to be called up to the Major Leagues.  That call happened. He made his MLB debut on August 14, 2013.  The outfielder would have an opportunity to prove himself in the world of baseball towards the end of the season over a span of 36 games.

I don’t think I could ever comprehend the feeling of being able to play in a Major League Baseball diamond.  It would be enough to turn a grown man into a little boy again. Now that the season is well over,  I had the chance to catch up with Kevin and ask him just how he feels about having the opportunity that so many of us could only ever dream of.  Here’s what he had to say about his first Major League experience and what he thinks of the Toronto Blue Jays:

What was your first trip up to the Major Leagues like?

The first trip up to the Major Leagues was a drive from Buffalo to Toronto and it was the most relaxed and enjoyable ride of my life. I say this because I was so excited and so accomplished at that point in time in my life, and knew how much uncertainty and how much excitement I had to look forward to that I almost treated it as the calm before the storm. My phone was going crazy with phone calls and text messages, but was unable to respond to family and friends because I did not have my extended plan for Canada yet.

And Kevin must have been excited about his debut… Just look at this play:

Did you ever see yourself playing for the Toronto Blue Jays at this point?

When I got drafted I also wanted to think and tell myself that playing in the big leagues is possible because the Blue Jays have you and the opportunity to prove yourself when they drafted you, but did not think that my opportunity would come so soon. That being said, as I saw the trend of spending half a season at a level in the minor leagues going into camp thinking I was going to start in AA, I had a goal in mind to put myself in a situation where if something happened at the big league level that I would be ready and in a place where they would feel comfortable bringing me up.
In the past, some players have had qualms about playing in Toronto.  How do you feel about the ball club?

I had no problems with playing in Toronto, but that being said I wouldn’t have had a problem playing on Mars if that gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues. Overall I loved playing in front of the fans in Toronto and their nation as a whole and I’m a huge fan of the city of Toronto; from its cleanliness to its night life and restaurants. It is an awesome city and can’t wait to go back.

Pillar’s positive attitude, excitement and enthusiasm is extremely apparent.  He’s more than aware that baseball is a fun sport and it allows you to experience the little things that come with it; like being able to enjoy the city that you play for.  However, he also knows that this comes at a price. That price is hard work.  Without the constant hard work and dedication to the game of baseball, the dream you’re living can be taken from you in a flash.

You’re playing Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic right now.  What’s the reasoning behind that?

I told myself if I was given the opportunity to go down and play Winter Ball, especially early in the year when I was still in AA and AAA, that I would go down there. Once I got to the big leagues, adding another 100 at bats and another month to the season, I was unsure if I wanted to go. But after what I felt was a disappointing beginning to my career at the big league level I told myself and my agent that I wanted to go down and play and work on some things, and improve some areas in which I did not do so well while I was in the big leagues. I got home, took 2 weeks off, and then got back to work correcting some flaws I had picked up on in my swing and approach and decided to put them to test against the quality pitching you see day in and day out in the Dominican Republic. I was also very interested to see the DR, as well as the culture down here and so far it had been quite the experience and definitely makes me appreciative of what is waiting for me back in the States.

Even though his professional baseball career is just beginning, there are always moments to be remembered since day one.  I asked Kevin about these moments:

What’s been your greatest accomplishment as a professional baseball player thus far?  How about the biggest disappointment?

My greatness accomplishment thus far has just been reaching the top of the mountain and getting a chance to not only put on a Major League uniform, but play in Major League games and have an impact on the game. My biggest disappointment is what I did when I got the opportunity to play in the big leagues. That is why I’m down in the Dominican playing and working out so that will never happen again.

(Once again he made a point of putting in hard work to solidify his career and that’s very admirable).
Here’s quite an accomplishment of Pillar’s. His first career Major League home run:

Describe your most embarrassing moment while playing the game.

I had an at bat this year in AAA in which I broke my bat on two consecutive pitches that I fouled off, followed by a strike out on the next pitch. It was pretty embarrassing.

Once I had some insight into how his Major League career has unfolded up to this point, I decided to dive a little deeper into his personal thoughts both on and off the baseball diamond.

Who do you idolize as a baseball player?

Growing up a Dodgers fan I had so many players I idolized in the backyard or in my little league games, so it basically depended on the year and day but one player the was always a role model of mine was Cal Ripkin Jr. Cal along with Brett Favre.  They are two of my favorite athletes of all time because of what they were able to accomplish and how they were able to be counted on every single day to play despite bumps, bruises and sometimes injuries. That is something I always wanted to do and be… Was someone you could pencil in the line up everyday and know I’m going to give you all I’ve got. That is why I train so hard in the off-season and during the season to be someone you can rely on.

If you weren’t a professional athlete, what other career might you have or want to pursue?

I would have attended law school and became lawyer, or I would have pursued law enforcement and became a detective.

Just because we all want to know your favourites…

Food: Seafood pasta
Candy: No candy but love ice cream
Band/artist: Zac Brown Band
Movie: 4 brothers
TV Show: Sons of Anarchy & How I Met Your Mother

I must say… Kevin’s got good taste!

The most important question was saved for last because every baseball player and every baseball fan has a different opinion about it.  The reason that this historical pastime is so incredible is because of it’s uniqueness.

What’s the most unique thing about baseball to you?

That we will fail such a huge percentage in this game but we keep coming back for more.

Spoken like a gentlemen, and it’s true.  Baseball has a hold on everybody, and sometimes we don’t know why.  Perhaps we can all take a page out of Kevin Pillar’s book and come to one understanding about this game:  The reason we love the game of baseball is because there’s so much more to the game than the game itself.

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John Rich
About the Author

John is a baseball fanatic and lover of writing with a particular interest in blogging about baseball. He runs JaysHub, a blog circling around the Blue Jays organization. Follow John on Twitter @_JohnRich or @_JaysHub

  • I’m really glad he’s a zac brown band fan. their so good!

  • Alan Hume

    Kevin showed some talent in his games with the JAYS. Good defense, good power, could hit the fastball, had trouble with the breaking ball and in showing enough patience to only swing at strikes.

    Kevin struck me as having the right character traits to be a good team player and I wish him all the best in his career.

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  • Terry & Judy

    Excellent write up John. We have both played the sport and Kevin Pillar is very dedicated ball player. Definitely one to watch.

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