By Jonathan Hodgson
Baseball fans have seen plenty of talented pitchers toe the rubber on the mound at Seaman Stadium since its opening in 2007, and without a doubt, Andrew Kittredge stood out.
In 2017, the now 28-year old right-hander became the second Dawgs alumnus to play in the major leagues when he got the call from the Tampa Bay Rays in July of that season, and saw significant major league time in 2018 as well.
Kittredge signed with the Dawgs early in the 2011 season, following his junior year at the University of Washington (NCAA Div. 1; Pac-12) in which he did not play.
His goals heading to Okotoks were simple.
“After leaving the University of Washington, my goal in going to Okotoks was just to continue playing the game I love,” Kittredge said. “I knew that I could play professionally and was hoping to get the opportunity to be seen, but ultimately I just wanted to continue to play baseball.”
Kittredge made his first start in a Dawgs uniform on June 24, 2011 at Seaman Stadium, and would go on to make four starts and 10 appearances in the regular season, working to a 3.52 ERA and 26 strike outs in 30 2/3 innings pitched.
The 6-foot-1 right-hander reached yet another level in the playoffs, recording a franchise record five saves in the Dawgs’ run to the Western Major Baseball League (now Western Canadian Baseball League) Championship Series.
“I had such a great time while I was in Okotoks,” Kittredge remembered. “We had a really great group of guys on the team that year and we competed very well, too. I definitely have memories from that summer that will last forever.”
Kittredge, a native of Spokane, Wash., was prepared to head to NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho for his senior year that fall, but another opportunity arose when the Seattle Mariners offered him a minor league contract in late August.
Kittredge accepted the offer and began his professional career with the Mariners’ short-season affiliate, the Everett AquaSox.
“(Signing with the Mariners) was a dream come true, honestly,” Kittredge remembered. “I was very thankful to the Mariners for giving me an opportunity. I grew up a huge Mariners fan, so that was who I had dreamt of playing for as a kid.”
Kittredge pitched six seasons in the Seattle organization, reaching triple-A in 2013, and again in 2015 and 2016.
“My time with the Mariners was full of ups and downs, literally and figuratively,” Kittredge said. “I was pretty inconsistent in my time with the Mariners and consequently was moved up and down 20-something times.”
Kittredge said that there was a period of three to four years where he thought he could be released, and remembers a perspective change that started a shift in his career.
“It wasn’t until the second half of the 2015 season when I had a realization that I was taking my career for granted and that I needed to pitch like I had nothing to lose,” Kittredge explained. “That mindset really helped me move forward and in 2016 I had the best season so far in my career.”
Kittredge finished the 2016 season with a cumulative 3.50 ERA 72 innings across 37 appearances with seven saves split between double-A and triple-A.
That November, Kittredge was involved in a five-player trade between the Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays.
“I was pretty shocked when I got the news that I had been traded,” Kittredge recalled. “I felt like it was a good thing, though, because I had always thought that if you get traded it means someone else wants you.”
After knowing only one organization as a professional, starting anew with the Rays was a new experience for Kittredge.
“I was excited to join the Rays but after six seasons with the Mariners, I really didn’t know what to expect in a different organization,” Kittredge said. “I was a little surprised how easy the transition was and was thankful to all the Rays staff and players who made me feel very welcome.”
Kittredge was a non-roster invitee to his first major league spring training in 2017, and began that season with triple-A Durham where he had an outstanding start to the season, posting a 1.45 ERA in 68 1/3innings over 41 appearances.
On July 17, 2017, The Rays purchased Kittredge’s contract.
For Kittredge, it was the realization of a dream he wasn’t sure could still happen.
“It was pretty crazy,” Kittredge said. “I knew that I had been throwing the ball really well to that point that season and that it was possible for me to get called up, but in my seventh professional season and 27 years old; I had kind of trained myself to not to get my hopes up too much.”
“I had never really believed that I could happen; It was pretty incredible,” Kittredge recalls fondly.
When Kittredge’s major league debut occurred on July 18, 2017, pitching 2/3 of an inning in Oakland, he became the second Dawgs alumnus to play in the major leagues, following Jim Henderson in 2012.
To say that Kittredge kicked the door down in his entrance to the majors would be an understatement. In 15 appearances for the Rays in his rookie season, Kittredge worked to a 1.76 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings pitched.
Another first came for Kittredge in 2018 as he cracked his first major league Opening Day roster. After that though, his second season was more of a challenge, as he was optioned back to triple-A Durham and recalled back to the Rays on four separate occasions.
Despite the rollercoaster of 2018, Kittredge remains confident heading into 2019.
“2018 was definitely a frustrating season for me as I felt like I could never get into a good rhythm,” Kittredge said. “It was a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ kind of year. I know I can be successful at the major league level and I just need to get back to that nothing to lose mentality.”
Kittredge is confident that he has much more to give in the major leagues and is determined to show it, but he is not overthinking it.
“From here forward, I just want to be the best player and teammate that I can be; the rest is in God’s hands,” Kittredge said. “Hopefully it leads to another opportunity at the major league level, but I’m happy with what I have achieved to this point in my career.”
Outstanding talent is on display at Seaman Stadium each summer in the WCBL, and Andrew Kittredge one of its prime examples. From starring in a Dawgs uniform at Seaman Stadium in pursuit of a title for Okotoks, to the realization of the life-long dream of pitching in the major leagues.