Kenny Diekroeger’s Season

Diekroeger dealing. Photo courtesy Stanford Athletics.

In 2009, Menlo High School shortstop Kenny Diekroeger was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the second round and was reportedly offered just over a million dollars to join the organization. He chose Stanford and stayed close to his Northern California roots. Most players, when faced with a similar choice, follow suit.

Diekroeger has no regrets. And he thinks this season has been just fine, too. Talk to the shortstop for even a few minutes, and you’ll realize he’s got an even-keeled outlook.

“Maybe it’s too bad that I didn’t get to see a different part of the country,” he admits, but we agreed he has a lot of life left to live, and it’s nice to do laundry at home, even if “that doesn’t actually happen as often you might think.” This Burlingame, Woodside and Menlo Park raised local felt that “it’s hard to turn down Stanford,” and “this place is so nice” and that he’s really enjoyed his time on the farm.

When asked about the season, he inevitably turns to the team. “We’ve had a great team, we’re competing for a top spot in the playoffs. We’re trying to host regionals and hopefully super-regionals.”

But how about your season in particular — your season, you personally. “It’s been good to help this team win. We were the number two team in the country for a while. On Friday night, we played in front of 4,000 people on Fireworks night. Being able to give them a good experience, that’s why we play the game.”

Okay, but you must have some thoughts about the position switch. From shortstop to second base, how did that go? “It was a little different than short, but they are pretty similar. … I put in the work and I felt pretty comfortable there. It was unfortunate that Lonnie [Kauppila] went down the injury that he did, but now I’m back to short. They are pretty similar positions, it wasn’t a hard transition to make.”

Diekroeger’s power is a little up this year (.401 SLG vs .365), has he changed his swing? “You always feel different, so you have to keep making tweaks to your swing. If you look at my swing now vs a few years ago, it is a little different. But I feel like that would be the case with a lot of people. I just do what I need to do at the time to make the right adjustment. When it comes to your swing, you have to have a short-term approach. You gotta do what you gotta do.”

After talking to Dean Stotz about the advanced stats that the pitchers deal with, it made sense to wonder what the hitters saw. “We don’t really see too much of that,” Diekroeger said. He admitted that he’d seen what the pros have and that it “was really cool stuff.” The Stanford student in the shortstop came out for a second — “I’m a stats guy myself,” he said and admitted he’d enjoyed FanGraphs before. But there’s a limit to it all.

“I’ve taken a lot of advanced stat courses, and I’m completely for all the advancements in that part of the game. But at the same time, baseball is just a weird game in that you don’t want to overthink that kind of stuff. If you’re a hitter, you can only look at so much information to improve yourself. At the end of the day, you have to be able to go up there and see the ball well and hit it hard. I know that sounds really simple, but it’s easy — especially with us being Stanford people and with my background in stats — it’s easy to overthink this game.” — Kenny Diekreoger

With Cal coming up in the final series of the year, conversation drifted to the modern state of the rivalry between Stanford and Berkeley. Diekroeger, like teammate Stephen Piscotty before him, admitted that he’s played with many Cal guys over the summer. And longer than that even — “I’ve played with Tony [Renda] a lot, all the way back to Little League. We’ve worked out together too.” But there’s a limit to the friendship — “When we’re out here playing, we’ve got Stanford jerseys on and they’ve got Cal jerseys on and we have to do our best to maintain that rivalry and bring home a victory.” In the end, he said that “There’s no better team to close out the regular season with, especially at home. We always have great games with them, so it will be fun.”

What about beyond that? Has he made a decision about entering the draft at the end of the season? “We’ll see what happens, I haven’t made any decisions yet,” laughed the shortstop with a steady head on his broad shoulders.

We hoped you liked reading Kenny Diekroeger’s Season by Eno Sarris!

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Sidenote: I love that you’ve linked an amateur player’s name to a background page. Very nice.