LANSING, Mich. via TORONTO, Ont. - There once was an outfielder who played for the Niagara University Purple Eagles.In a game against Boston College at BC's Brighton Field, this outfielder made a spectacular defensive play.After having a ball hit over his head, he sprinted back to the track, reached up,
LANSING, Mich. via TORONTO, Ont. - There once was an outfielder who played for the Niagara University Purple Eagles.
In a game against Boston College at BC's Brighton Field, this outfielder made a spectacular defensive play.
After having a ball hit over his head, he sprinted back to the track, reached up, made a miraculous catch, and smashed into the wooden wall that lined the field's warning track.
Because of a concussion suffered on the collision, he doesn't remember anything about the play. He only heard about it from his Niagara teammates, who praised him for his outstanding effort.
That outfielder was Tanner Kirwer, a native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, who joined the Lansing Lugnuts in 2019.
"I don't care if I have to run into walls," he said. "I don't care if I have to run a mile. I'm going to try and catch it."
A Blue Jays fan growing up, Kirwer, now 23, was told he would get drafted, he just didn't know when he'd get picked, or by what team. His 2017 season at Niagara, which saw him hit .335 in 194 at-bats and steal 23 bases, was a strong one for him.
Going from high school to college really taught him a lot. Given that high school pitching isn't as polished, the experience of playing Division I ball was incredibly useful for Kirwer's development. "College taught me how to deal with failure," he noted. "In high school, you don't really deal with a lot of failure. In college, you learn about having a good mental side to your game."
A consistent base-stealing threat with an aggressive approach in every aspect of the game, Kirwer flourished last season with the Short Season-A Vancouver Canadians, slashing .280/.333/.450 in 61 games, stealing 28 bags and smashing four home runs.
Of course, as a fellow Canadian, playing at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver was extra special.
"We'd sell out every night, it was just fun to play there," he remembered. "My parents came up three or four times, and I have some buddies nearby who made it to a few games."
Going into the 2018 season, Kirwer didn't focus on specific goals or numbers, but rather on developing and improving as a player. With a young roster of teammates, the team was successful, in more ways than just wins and losses.
This offseason, he focused primarily on getting bigger and making harder contact. On the defensive side, he did ladder and speed drills to keep his agility up. Away from the field, Kirwer managed to finish his degree at Niagara and worked at several baseball camps as an instructor.
In 17 games with the Lugnuts this season, Kirwer has slashed .204/.338/.278 with five stolen bases and nine runs scored in 54 at-bats. A versatile hitter with speed, Kirwer, who was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 20th round of the 2017 draft, has been quietly establishing himself as a solid name to watch in the system.