By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – In only his third professional baseball season, Curve shortstop Kevin Newman is considered one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ players of the future.
It shouldn’t be surprising.
Newman attended Poway, Calif. High School where he was named team MVP as a senior. Then it was on to the University of Arizona where he became an instant success and earned numerous awards.
He hit .336 as an Arizona frosh and earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors. He batted .304 as a sophomore and was named All-Pac 12 all-star.
After his freshman season at Arizona, Newman went to the Cape Cod Summer League and became the first freshman ever to win the Cape Cod batting title, hitting .375 in 2013.-He repeated as Cape Cod batting king in 2014 when he hit .380 in 31 games and earned all-star honors with the Falmouth Commodores.
Newman batted .370 as an Arizona junior and earned All-Pac 12 honors for the third straight year, having started all 165 games during his college career. Not surprising, Newman was selected in the first round (19th overall) by the Pirates in the 2015 draft.
The 6-1, 180-pounder’s success has continued as a Pirate minor leaguer. After 163 pro games, including the last 61 with the Curve in 2016, Newman boasted a .295 average.
The Pirates took him to his first big-league spring training in 2017 and he more than held his own.
“My first major league camp was great,” Newman said recently. “Sitting with those guys and getting to know them, and work with them, was really special.
“I got to spend a lot of time with Jordy Mercer at shortstop in big-league camp,” Newman noted. “He really helped me a lot. We took a lot of reps together. He was very approachable. He talked a lot and is a great guy. He’s a great player and it was cool to talk to him.
“Everybody in the Pirate clubhouse is united—very advising and very helpful,” Newman said. “Everybody was very open and made me feel comfortable.”
Newman said he didn’t know what to expect from the big-league camp experience.
“I was really happy to be invited and wanted to make the most of it whether I got 5 at-bats or 25,” he said. “I wanted to go in there and try to get the most out of the experience. Really, my expectation was nothing more than that.”
Newman played for Michael Ryan in Bradenton in the first half of the 2016 season so they know each other and know what to expect.
“He’s a great player,” Altoona manager Ryan said of Newman. “He’s a great shortstop and he’s a great top-of-the-order guy.
“He gets on base constantly because his approach at the plate is so simple. If he has any struggles, you know they aren’t going to be very long,” Ryan said. “He’s a quiet leader and I love managing him
“He got off to a great start in Bradenton last year and they pushed him here. I think it’s important for him to have a good, full season at Double-A this year,” Ryan added.
The Pirates normally have their infielders work at multiple positions, but Newman has been used strictly at shortstop so far.
“I feel I can play shortstop at the major-league level,” Newman said, “but what they want is up to them. For now, my focus is on shortstop.”
As to being considered the next Jordy Mercer, Newman quickly noted: “I try not to look farther than where I am. I don’t want to put stress on myself and go day-to-day.”