The Forgotten Two-Way Player

Updated: Jun 28, 2021


Brooks Kieschnick was a two-way player for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003 and 2004.

Everyone knows how amazing it is to watch Shohei Ohtani go to work on both sides of the dish. The man won Rookie of the Year in 2018 after he excelled on the mound and at the plate. However, Ohtani is not the only two-way player to don a Major League Baseball uniform. In fact, Jared Walsh, who also plays for the Angels, has spent time as both a pitcher and a hitter. Babe Ruth also ditched pitching for hitting during his career.


All those guys are incredible players, but I am here to bring up a player that only the most diehard Brewers fans or fans of obscure players like me would know. He played as a two-way player during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and his name is Brooks Kieschnick.


COLLEGE

Kieschnick attended the University of Texas at Austin and quickly became one of the most versatile players in all of college baseball with his two-way ability. Over three years in Longhorn Nation, Kieschnick batted a sparkling .360 with 43 home runs and 215 RBI. On the pitching side, he went 34-8 with a 3.05 ERA.


Kieschnick also won the Dick Howser Trophy, awarded to the best player in college baseball, in both 1992 and 1993. As of 2021, he is the only player to be bestowed the honor twice. To put that in perspective, other players that have won it include Buster Posey, Mark Teixeira, Anthony Rendon and Todd Helton.

PROFESSIONAL

Kieschnick had an interesting road to the major leagues during his career. The Cubs were high on him, selecting him with the tenth overall pick in 1993. He had no real position, and despite pitching well, the Cubs viewed him as more of a hitter so he abandoned pitching altogether in the Cubs' system. He hit extremely well as a pure position player in the Cubs' system, batting above .280 and swatting 14+ home runs in his last two minor league seasons and getting ranked as one of the Cubs' top prospects.


When he made it to the major leagues, it was a tough ride. In 1996, he batted .345 with a home run in 32 plate appearances, seeing time in the outfield. However, he lost the starting left field job to Brant Brown in 1997. He eventually won it back, but struggled, batting .200 in 102 plate appearances, but swatting four home runs. The offseason would be even tougher as he was picked by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.


Kieschnick also faced some criticism in the Chicago media following the offseason, namely in the Telegraph-Herald.


"The Chicago Cubs, meanwhile, lost first baseman-outfielder Brooks Kieschnick, once regarded as their top prospect but more recently considered just another underachieving Cub. He went to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays."-Associated Press, Telegraph Herald, November 12, 1997

The Devil Rays never gave Kieschnick a shot, shuffling him throughout the minor leagues from the 1997-99 seasons before loaning him to the Angels. He became a free agent in 2000.


Signing with the Cincinnati Reds, Kieschnick spent more time in the minors but spent a 14-game stint in the majors, not amassing any hits in his brief stay.


Colorado was Kieschnick's next stop, splitting major and minor league time again and faring a bit better with a .238/.289/.548 line, mashing three home runs and nine RBI in 35 games.


Kieschnick changed his career approach after this, spending the entire 2002 season as primarily a pitcher in the White Sox organization but still batting. His stats were solid, hitting 13 home runs and batting .275 in 189 at-bats and tossing a 2.59 ERA in 31 innings. This attracted the attention of the Milwaukee Brewers, who signed him to a contract the next season.


SOME BREWS

He joined the Brewers and made it back to the MLB as a pitcher/utility outfielder/DH. During that season, he batted .300 in 70 at-bats, swatting seven home runs and driving in twelve. He became the first MLB player to hit home runs as a pitcher, designated hitter and pinch hitter in a season. He hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead home run against his old team on June 25, 2003, which must have felt good for him. A month later, he picked up his first win. If you search his name on YouTube, you can find several of his home runs, such as this one against Minnesota. He finished the year with an unlucky 5.26 ERA (3.86 FIP) and a 148 wRC+, an interesting two-way season.


While his hitting tailed off the next season battling injury, he still had solid lines on both sides of the ball, pitching to a 3.77 ERA and hitting a home run while batting .270. The transformative ability of him to be competent on both sides of the ball was just so fun to watch for the Brewers during this era.

POST-CAREER

He retired after being released, but his baseball career was not "done" technically, as he was inducted to the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and his number 23 was retired by the Longhorns in 2009.


Brooks Kieschnick may not have had the easiest road to MLB, but he played well from both sides of the ball and had one heck of a college career before that. Watching him pitch and hit was a lot of fun, and his home runs were captivating as well. While Shohei Ohtani is making his name as a two-way player now, Kieschnick and others did it before it was cool.


0 comments