When Scott Kingery joined the Arizona Wildcats out of high school, he was just a walk-on looking for a spot to play.
Now he’s leading all of Minor League Baseball in home runs after slugging his 18th out of the park on Sunday for Reading, the Philadelphia Phillies Double-A affiliate.
Through 57 games this year, Kingery is slugging .612, which is 50 points higher than his best season at Arizona — his junior year. It also happens to be a 200 point increase from what he slugged in High-A last year.
In three years of college and two years of Minor League ball (including an Arizona Fall League stint), Kingery had only hit a total of 15 homers in 1,473 at bats. Now he has 18 in 232 ABs in 2017.
"Everyone keeps asking me if I'm a home-run hitter and I keep telling them no," Kingery told MiLB.com last month. "I'm honestly just trying to put a good line-drive swing on the ball, and for some reason I'm hitting them in the air and they're getting some carry on them. ... I wasn't thinking about home runs coming into the season and I'm still not thinking about home runs."
Kingery also says he’s put an emphasis on staying on his back leg this season.
“I was pretty much straight up and straight down (but) lunging forward at ball, changing my eye level,” he told Philly Voice. “That would make me swing at pitches that were bouncing in the dirt. Being able to stay on my back leg, I’m recognizing pitches and if it’s in the dirt I can take it and wait for that pitch I can hit.”
However, he does have the home runs at the front of his mind at times, like when he’s texting Aaron Judge to tell him to stop hitting them so the two can have their own duel for the top spot in professional baseball.
“I texted him this morning and said, ‘Hey, take it easy – let me catch you,’” Kingery said of a recent exchange with Judge. The two happened to train together this offseason in Arizona and are represented by the same agency.
It’s pretty funny that Kingery and Judge, who are about a foot different in height and 100 pounds apart in weight, are on the same level when it comes to home runs this year, but here we are.
Not bad for a college walk-on.