Like those who grew up during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Patrick Kivlehan still enjoys listening to the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, NSYNC and other pop music acts of the era today."I know it's like you really don't want to tell a lot of people that you like that
Like those who grew up during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Patrick Kivlehan still enjoys listening to the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, NSYNC and other pop music acts of the era today.
"I know it's like you really don't want to tell a lot of people that you like that stuff, but I love it," he said. "The cornier people think the song is, I probably love it."
And when the Buffalo Bisons have needed a big play in the field or at the plate, it's safe to say Kivlehan has approached these situations with a confident "It's gonna be me" attitude.
"I just try to hit the ball as hard as I can, whether it's a single, home run, double or an out," said Kivlehan, who has played third base, first base and batted as the designated hitter. "I just try to get a good pitch and hit it as far as I can."
Launching the baseball towards the cheap seats has been one of his specialties since he arrived in early May after Toronto acquired him in a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates while in Triple-A Indianapolis for cash considerations. Since his debut May 28 at Sahlen Field against Syracuse, Kivlehan has recorded 15 of his 19 home runs, 39 of his 48 RBI and a .266 batting average through his first 55 games with the team. His most recent heroics include go-ahead three-run home runs in the eighth at Pawtucket July 11 and in the ninth at Charlotte July 24 - two of Buffalo's 15 comeback wins so far this year.
"He's done a good job being consistent," said Bisons hitting coach Corey Hart. "That game (in Pawtucket), it was the perfect time, exactly what we needed when he stepped in. We were down by two (runs) and he got that ball over the fence and it was great."
The phrase "one more" is one constantly pounding through as a subtle reminder of never being satisfied.
"I want one more hit, one more homer, one more RBI," Kivlehan said. "And then when I get that next one, it's just one more, one more. I'm never really set to put my goals so far in advance."
"Every time he comes up (to hit), I feel good about his chances and our chances," added Bisons manager Bobby Meacham. "When we're hitting in a big situation, you want him on the bases because he plays so aggressively and he knows what he's doing out there and it's just so fun to watch him, you know? I just play him in the middle of the lineup and let him go."
The oldest of three siblings to Pat and Kathy Kivlehan, young Patrick grew up in West Nyack, NY, a hamlet of Clarkstown less than an hour away from the bright lights of New York City. His only connection to Buffalo and the Western New York area in general was through sports, watching the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres battle his childhood teams, the New York Giants and New York Rangers.
When he arrived in the Queen City two months ago, Kivlehan instantly fell in love with the calming, blue-collared, working-class atmosphere the area provided - a sharp contrast to "The Big Apple," his off-season home.
"The craziness, the hecticness, everything, it's just too fast-paced for me," he said of NYC. "I enjoy it out here (in Buffalo). Get a little bit of the country and the city, it's a lot greener and I'd say nicer."
When he started playing scholastically for the St. Joseph's Regional High School Green Knights in Montvale, New Jersey, Kivlehan found his strength as a third baseman and was inspired by the play of former New York Mets star David Wright - who eventually became his future teammate with the Las Vegas 51s for a couple of games in 2018.
"He was the guy that I tried to model my game after and really watched to try to emulate," Kivlehan, who was also an outfielder, said. "In high school, he was the guy, especially during that time when he was in his prime and did some good things."
Following a senior campaign with St. Joseph's Regional High in 2008, where he finished at the time the school's all-time leader in home runs (23), and a single-season record of 13 home runs, Kivlehan stepped away from baseball to continue pursuing his other passion - football.
With the Green Knights, Kivlehan was a three-year letterman and primarily used at free safety, where he recorded a then-school record 18 interceptions, and spent time at wide receiver and quarterback, throwing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns his senior year in 2007. The skills he learned from the gridiron, Kivlehan said, have paid off years later on the diamond.
"In baseball, sometimes you get caught doing the same motions over and over and really repetitive and you don't really work other muscles and other parts of our body," he said. "I think playing other sports molded me into a better overall athlete."
As he approached graduation day, Kivlehan accepted an offer at Rutgers University, the only Division I school to offer him a football scholarship. As a Scarlet Knight for the next four years under head coach Greg Schiano, Kivlehan contributed as a reserve safety and special teams specialist and pursued a communications degree.
Ironically, his two favorite sports intersected when Rutgers defeated Iowa State in the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl held at - you guessed it - Yankee Stadium. But in that moment, Kivlehan said the bowl game wasn't foreshadowing his current profession in even the slightest way.
"I didn't really think I'd ever make it there as a baseball player," he laughed. "Even though it was only a football game, (it was) just one of those cool things that you'll never forget."
Yet when he reached his final year as an undergrad student in 2011, Kivlehan found himself wishing for one last opportunity back on the diamond. So, in September, he approached the Rutgers baseball staff about trying out for the team. It paid off, as in the spring of 2012, he earned the spot of starting third baseman despite an expected slow start.
"It was really a lot of, 'What am I doing? Can I really do this?'" he said. "But then I started swinging a little better and got hot and the rest is kind of history."
The rest being history is right.
In his lone collegiate season in 2012, Kivlehan led the Scarlet Knights with team-highs in home runs (14), RBI (50) and batting average (.399) and won both the Big East Player of the Year and Triple Crown awards prior to the Seattle Mariners selecting him in the fourth round of the MLB Draft that June.
But after the draft, Kivlehan dealt with trying to find a permanent spot. After spending three years with the Mariners minor league system, Kivlehan was briefly traded to the Texas Rangers before returning to Seattle and ultimately placed on waivers in August 2016.
He cracked through to the big leagues with the San Diego Padres on August 20, 2016 at Petco Park against his future MLB home, the Arizona Diamondbacks. While his Padres stint only lasted five games, Kivlehan and his family were provided with the memory of a lifetime.
With Diamondbacks pitcher Buddy Ray throwing a no-hitter in the fifth, Kivlehan sent a fastball 464 feet into the left-field stands for his first hit and home run in the majors - a moment that he is still appreciative of today.
"It was as cool as you could possibly imagine," Kivlehan said. "There's so many emotions running through your body that you don't even really feel the adrenaline or the nerves because there's so many other emotions going on. And to hit a home run on top of it, it was crazy."
Almost three years later in Buffalo - with MLB stops in Cincinnati and Arizona prior - Kivlehan is seen as one of the veteran voices on a youthful, talented team in terms of both playing experience and age. While he admitted he's not used to being "the old guy" yet (turning 30 in December), Kivlehan said it's been fun for everyone.
"The young guys keep me young with what's cool now-a-days and all that," he said. "They keep me smiling, laughing and all that stuff. I try to instill a little bit of wisdom every now and then if they need it. It's been a good balance."
Along with Andy Burns, Ryan Feierabend and Buddy Boshers, Meacham said the presence of Kivlehan has kept this team together at times where they have all been tested.
"We have so many guys that are able to collectively pull the group together after struggling early and keep it together now that we're winning more games," he said. "Patrick's just one of many added to this veteran group that have really led the way for us. Hopefully, as they do that, not only do they get a chance to lead here, but hopefully get to go up to the big level (in Toronto) and help them."
"Since I got here, it's been amazing," Kivlehan added. "The guys have been very welcoming. It's been a good clubhouse to hang out in and I really think that translates into how we're doing on the field."
The chemistry and comradery among them have paid off since the start of June where they were seven games below .500 and now in a tight wild card race with Durham and Charlotte. Kivlehan said the group is looking to accomplish a feat a Bison team hasn't done since 2005 when the majority of this roster were only teenagers - reaching the postseason.
"Honestly, we want to make the playoffs," he said. I think we have a good group and it would be something cool for this city and this group to be able to experience."
Now raising a daughter, Kylee, alongside his wife, Stephanee, Kivlehan shares with the young Bison group and others a message of being yourself - one of the trends from the turn-of-the-century songs he still enjoys all these years later.
"Really just stay within yourself and know the player you are," he said. "Don't try and be someone you're not because that's just going to lead to you not being the best you could possibly be and really stand out."