Brock making the most of AFL time as Desert Dog
* Brock Kjeldgaard (London, Ont.) signed by Milwaukee Brewers scout Harvey Kuenn after attending Indian Hills Community College as a pitcher, the Arizona Fall League. When the Brewers were about to release him Brewers scout Jay Lapp suggested they try him as a hitter. He was the first player in the AFL with a two homer game./Photo: Dylan Higgins ….
By Steph Rogers
SURPRISE, Az. — Brock Kjeldgaard remembers being on a bus in Brevard County. The 26-year-old was rehabbing in the Florida State League, being careful with his recently healed thumb that had kept him out of the game for almost two months.
On that bus trip, he got the text message that his good friend and longtime Brewers organizational teammate, Jim Henderson had been called up after nearly 10 years in the minor leagues.
“I got excited. I’m thinking I’m going to tell everybody, and I look around and it’s all these younger guys who don’t even know who he is,” said Kjeldgaard, sitting in the stands at Surprise Stadium before his Arizona Fall League team, the Phoenix Desert Dogs took on the Saguaros. “It was my own little celebration. I was really happy for him.”
Kjeldgaard couldn’t quite get his rhythm back after he broke his thumb two weeks into the minor league season, and was dropped from the Brewers 40-man roster.
“It was tough, it was something I never had. You come back and everyone’s been playing all year,” he said. “They’re at their prime, and you’re in spring training mode.”
He’s using the fall league as a chance to get things going again, make up for lost time, and get into the form that had him succeeding in double-A Huntsville. Frankly, he’s not holding back in front of this crowd, full of scouts and front-office types.
He’s the only player to have have a multi-home run game, he leads the league in slugging (.880) and is batting .400 for fourth-best. All of this, and he only sees action on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The pitcher-turned-first baseman-turned-outfielder was selected by the Brewers the 34th round of the 2005 draft, and although he’s been lucky enough to stay away from injury up until now, his road has never been without potholes and barriers.
“This will be my eighth year. To think where I was seven years ago is quite a difference. At first, you don’t really know what’s going on in professional baseball, you learn every year,” the Edmonton-born Kjeldgaard said. “The years have helped me, and every year I feel like I’ve gotten more and more well-prepared.”
While the difficulties of battling an injury plagued the one side of his baseball life, on the other side of the world, Kjeldgaard was helping Team Canada, managed by Ernie Whitt, qualify for the World Baseball Classic in Germany.
“It’s the same game, but it’s also a little bit different,” he said. “When you’re playing pro ball, it’s a lot of individual stuff. It’s team oriented, but not as much as when you have your country across your chest.”
“Playing for Team Canada is a huge honour for everybody on the team. We take it with some serious pride,” Kjeldgaard said. “We showed over there that it doesn’t matter who you pick – if you take minor league guys or major league guys – they’re going to get the job done. We’re going to battle until the end.”
When the Fall League wraps up in three weeks, Kjeldgaard will go back home to London, Ont. He’ll spend the off season at Centrefield Sports, preparing both as a player, and as an instructional hitting coach at clinics for younger athletes.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen this year, it should be interesting,” he said. “I know what I can do. I have to show them, and hopefully the stars will align.”