Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kivett, Conlon return to lead Wildcats

It wasn’t a simple decision, but Ross Kivett just had too much left to accomplish at Kansas State.

Yes, the Wildcats second baseman was the Big 12 Player of the Year, and he helped lead the team to its first Big 12 title, first regional host selection and first Super Regional appearance. But it ended short of what Kivett hoped to accomplish.

And even though he was drafted in the 10th round by his hometown Cleveland Indians, Kivett had to come back and give it one last shot at the College World Series.

Kivett admits the decision wasn’t an easy one to make though.

“That was a tough few weeks — hometown team and the 10th round,” he said. “A lot of big accolades and accomplishments last year, it would’ve been easy to go out. I had a goal, as a team we had a goal and we didn’t reach that goal.

“I have one more year to get a last hurrah and I’m looking forward to that. In the long run, I felt like it was the best for me and my family.”

Kivett, who is playing with some of the best college prospects in the nation in the Cape Cod League, made a decision that gave him another year of living with a teammate who has been a roommate and become a best friend in first baseman Shane Conlon.

Conlon said the friendship between he and Kivett is so close, that friends, teammates and coaches often look at them as brothers. That bond between them was so close, that when Conlon was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 27th round, it was Kivett who was most excited.

“Next day I was on Twitter during the team meal, don’t tell coach (Brad) Hill that, and I saw the Royals selected Shane Conlon and I started going nuts,” Kivett said. “And then he got the phone call two seconds later — that was awesome. There is no doubt in my mind that he’s going to go high this next year, he’s a really good player.”

Conlon said he was even more excited for Kivett when he was drafted the day before him.

“I had a feeling Ross was going to go high, but I wasn’t thinking about it a lot,” he said. “Jared (King) and Ross kept saying I was going to get drafted, and on that Saturday we were hanging out and I really didn’t know where I was going to fall. The Royals guy texted me and we were at the team lunch and Ross saw I got drafted and started screaming, It was pretty funny.”

Both admitted making the decision to pass on professional careers for at least another year wasn’t an easy one. Kivett said the team gave him distance after the season ending loss to Oregon State in the third game of Super Regionals, and he and Conlon agreed to give each other space on the decision too.

But low and behold, when the decision came to being made, the two best friends, brothers some might say, were thinking alike.

“I told Conlon, my best friend and my roommate, I said ‘I don’t want to know your decision, I want to make my own, I don’t want to make an emotional decision and make it for the wrong reasons,’” Kivett said. “So we both took our time, and it’s funny we came back to each other after two weeks and we were on the same page.”

After making that decision to come back, Kivett said he was surprised at the reaction he received in Manhattan. With the Big 12 Championship success among football, men’s basketball and baseball this year, Kivett said he realized shortly after announcing his intention to return, just how big the news was for K-State fans.

“It’s wild, I didn’t know that baseball was going to jump in there,” he said. “It felt like I was on the football team with the attention that Tyler Lockett and Collin Klein got last year, and that just shows that K-State is special. That’s a huge reason I’m coming back, it’s the family aspect. You couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

The Wildcats will return much of their team from a season ago, losing major contributors to the batting order like outfielders Jared King, Tanner Witt and Jon Davis, but bringing back their entire infield.

Along with Conlon at first and Kivett at second, Austin Fisher and Lance Miles will be back at shortstop, and RJ Santigate will return at third base, with catcher Blair DeBord back behind the plate. Along with designated hitter Mitch Meyer returning, Kivett said fans have plenty to be excited about.

“You lose bats like Witt, and King and Davis, and you’re thinking to yourself ‘oh man, how are they going to recover?’” he said. “But you get Conlon back, and I feel like I helped the team, DeBord, Santigate, Fisher, Mitch Meyer is hot and having a great summer - I think guys will step up and take charge for their spot.

“I don’t think it’s rebuilding as much as reload. You might not see the .327 team batting average, but this school has a history of leading the Big 12 in hitting, and there is a high expectation coming into this year.”


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