By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Kevin Newman is a hitting machine. Wherever he’s been, college or pro, his bat has played a huge role in his success.
The 22-year-old Altoona shortstop, in only his second season of pro ball, has taken a liking to Eastern League pitching and is one of the reasons the Curve are in the playoff hunt. As the calendar turned to August, Newman was hitting over .320.
After a stellar career at the University of Arizona, Newman was the Pirates’ top pick (19th overall) in the 2015 draft.
“As a first-rounder, there were a lot of expectations,” Curve manager Joey Cora said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field, “but he’s been very good.
“He was leading the Florida State League in hitting when he came here (from Bradenton) so that tells you something about his potential with the bat,” Cora said.
Newman, who hails from the San Diego area, had offers from UCLA, Oregon State, Oregon, and Arizona State before deciding on the University of Arizona.
“It worked out well,” Newman said of his time with the Wildcats and coach Andy Lopez. “He taught me a ton and how to get better. I enjoyed my three years … the best time of my life.”
He batted .336 as a freshman and was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. He batted .304 as a sophomore and was named All-Pac 12. He hit .370 in 55 games as a junior and was an All-Pac 12 all-star for the third season.
Newman also was the first freshman to win the Cape Cod League batting title, hitting .375 in 2013. He became that league’s first back-to-back batting champion when he posted a .380 mark in 31 games in 2014.
“That was a ton of fun,” he said of the Cape Cod experience. “I had a great time and made a lot of friends.”
After signing with the Pirates after his junior season at AU, Newman was sent to the short-season West Virginia Black Bears where he batted only .226 in 38 games.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he admitted of his first pro stop.
He was bumped up to low-A West Virginia and batted .306 in 23 games with the Power.
“I got a clean slate there and went back to being me,” Newman said. “That was good.”
He was promoted to Bradenton (advanced A) to begin the 2016 season and, after a great start, was promoted to the Curve at mid-season.
“I was happy the Pirates thought enough of me to handle Double-A,” Newman said. “It’s been a good challenge. I love it here, competing against a lot of veteran guys who have been to the bigs.”
Cora said Newman has a bright future.
“He’s been steady defensively,” Cora said, “and he has a knack of putting the barrel on the ball. He still has a lot to learn but he has a lot of potential, a lot of upside.
“He’s very competitive and wants to be the best,” Cora continued. “He’ll do whatever it takes because he cares about the team and his teammates.”
Newman gives his family a lot of credit for his success.
“My dad played tennis at Northern Arizona and so did one of my sisters,” he said. “My other sister played water polo at San Diego State, and my mother was a ski instructor, so that’s where I got my competitiveness.”
He also gives a lot of credit to Cora, a former major league player and coach.
“I take a lot from him,” Newman said. “He’s accomplished so much and his advice goes a long way. He’s already helped me a lot, particularly since he also played shortstop.”
Newman said he doesn’t have a timetable for making the majors.
“I don’t look too far into the future,” he said. “I stay in the now.”