Nieuwenhuis Brings Balance

Kirk Nieuwenhuis was selected in the 3rd round by the Mets in last spring's draft after a college career built around tremendous offensive skills. With the Brooklyn Cyclones, he confirmed beliefs that he will be a player in this organization as he showed a mature approach at the plate and continued improvement in the outfield. That balance has many thinking highly of his future.

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Nobody on the Cyclones roster this season played in more games than Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The 6-foot-3, 210 pound outfielder appeared in 74 of the club's 75 games where one could usually find him hitting leadoff and playing centerfield [though he was later moved to right field as the depth chart adjusted]. Traditionally, that sort of role is filled with a singles-hitting speedster, but in the case of Niewenhuis, he fits a different mold.

He finished the year with a .277 average, three home runs and 29 RBI, but more importantly he showed a developed, level swing and a sharp eye that allows him to hit to all fields with good extra-base power. It is that maturity, and strength, that made a believer out of Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo.

"[Nieuwenhuis] is very patient at the plate. He was our leadoff hitter, he takes a lot of walks, he moves the ball around, can move runners over, and do the important thing to generate runs. He brings a lot to the table up there," Alfonzo explained.

The season did not start too hot for Nieuwenhuis who hit just .240 [12-for-50] through the first 14 games with only two doubles. But his batting average climbed in each successive month to .278 in July and .288 in August. The growth was noticeable as he grew more confident and settled at the plate.

"Mostly it's just getting more comfortable at the plate in this league. Just getting used to wood bats again. That was the biggest thing, getting used to my surroundings in Brooklyn and just getting a comfortable at the plate."

Nieuwenhuis attributed much of his success to his experience in the Alaska Baseball League [a summer collegiate league], in which he was named the 2007 Player of the Year. His time there gave him a feel for what lied ahead in the New York-Penn League.

"My experience in Alaska was a lot like this one, in terms of pitching and stuff. You get guys who have kind of the same stuff as guys in Alaska, and they know how to use it. They work in and out, mix in off-speed. It's better pitching."

He wrapped the year leading the club in extra-base hits [23] and hits [79], numbers which helped boost the Cyclones last-season surge led by their offense. Nieuwenhuis played an important role in that ignition as he—from the top of the order—was one of just two players to accumulate more hits than games played.

Nieuwenhuis' strong first season will help his trajectory in the future, but he will not let early success dictate his work ethic as he moves forward. As a diligent worker, he is just keeping things in perspective.

"Just personally, I do a lot better with short-term goals. Each day I come to the park and take it one pitch at a time, even in BP, even in the game. In this game you know you get so many chances, you have to take 'em one at a time."

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