Ahrens destined to prove skeptics wrong

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Meeting the expectations that come with being a first-round pick has been difficult thus far for Kevin Ahrens.

The 22-year old third baseman is cognizant of this fact and believes this year will be a standout season for him.

That positive approach to the game has continued to fuel his major league aspirations.

“Everybody wants to make it to the big leagues,” Ahrens said, outside of Diamond 1 at the Blue Jays’ minor league facility. “I’ve had some failure in my past, but I feel like I’ve approached it in a good way.”

Ahrens had the best year of his professional career last season, as his batting average skyrocketed 55 points from .187 in 2010 at high-A Dunedin, to .242 in 2011 for the same club, and hit a career-high 13 home runs.

Prior to last season, he was a switch hitter, and the decision to hit from the right side of the plate exclusively has been integral to his recent wave of success.

“I’m just more of a consistent hitter from the right side of the plate. I’m going to hit more doubles, more home runs more consistently. I think it really jump-started my career,” he said.

Drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball Entry Draft out of Memorial High School in Houston, Ahrens was a heralded talent.

Entering his fifth season of professional baseball with the Blue Jays organization, he said that his game has matured greatly.

“Through the years, I’ve grown to know myself as a player and as a person. It’s really helped me a lot.

“I grew up and have become more mature with my body, and how I need to take care of it through a 140-game season, so that’s how I’m approaching it.”

During spring training, Ahrens was reunited with his high school teammate and childhood friend, Koby Clemens, and is thrilled to be playing with him once again.

“It’s actually been really fun. I haven’t seen him for about five years, he looks good, he looks healthy and I’m just excited to be on the same field as him.”

Moreover, Ahrens and Clemens’ friendship extends beyond the parameters of the diamond.

The two Blue Jays prospects have been active members of their community in Houston, and Ahrens glowingly spoke about the philanthropic event that the duo host.

“Me and Koby usually do a hit-a-thon every year. It’s basically a home run derby to raise money for the school.

“We’ve been doing that for the last four or five years and it’s pretty awesome to do, giving back to the community and help my high school baseball team out.”

Ahrens also mentioned that he would like to mentor young baseball players, who share the common dream of becoming a pro.

“I think it would be really fun and exciting to help. Little leaguers grow up to achieve their dream job: becoming a major leaguer.”

With the exceptional commitment, discipline and poise he exhibits both on and off the field, it is now a question of when, and not will Kevin Ahrens suit up for the Toronto Blue Jays.

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