The adjustment from high school baseball to college wasn’t the easiest for Kyle Speer.
But the former Manhattan High product and current Kansas State outfielder said he is gradually becoming more comfortable at the next level.
Now, the sophomore just needs to get healthy, as the Wildcats begin a three-game series at Iowa today.
Speer has played in just eight games this season, hitting .176 — a slight improvement from his .167 performance in 33 games as a freshman.
The toughest part of last season for Speer, though, was adjusting to the college pitching. He wasn’t quite ready for guys regularly throwing 88-90 miles per hour.
Now, Speer said he feels like a year of experience and time working in the cages has helped him improve his discipline at the plate.
“I feel way more confident than I did last year,” he said. “Last year was just a whole new experience. I think that this year I’m a lot more comfortable in the box.”
It’s a little ironic that Speer needed to improve his plate discipline, as that’s what he was known for in his days at MHS. Speer set the season record for walks for the Indians, and he always seemed to wait for the right pitch to hit.
In just five starts this season, Speer has started to get back to his old ways, drawing three walks so far.
K-State coach Brad Hill said walks have always been a big part of Speer’s game, and he expects it to be going forward too.
“He’s being patient at the plate,” he said. “Young hitters are usually impatient and he’s been very patient. He’s taking his walks and getting on base for us. He’s always had a good eye at the plate. It’s been a matter of getting him healthy, so he has an opportunity to compete for a job.”
Speer has been one of several players that has competed for a spot as the Wildcats’ designated hitter, but he’s also seen time playing in the outfield.
Speer’s time has been limited this season by a number of injuries. He had an emergency appendectomy in the fall that caused him to miss most of the fall schedule. He spent a few weeks recovering from a knee surgery to start the regular season, and then suffered a wrist injury diving for a ball against Baylor.
Speer returned to the lineup as a pinch-hitter against Texas Tech last weekend.
“I’ve been rehabbing, trying to get back as quick as I can,” he said. “I’m just ready for whenever coach wants me to come in.”
K-State catcher Blair DeBord, who played with Speer at Manhattan, experienced some of the same early growing pains that Speer has, and also knows what it’s like to come back from an injury.
DeBord said he’s seen good things out of Speer as he works to get healthy.
“Kyle had that knee injury — he came back and really hasn’t let it keep him down,” DeBord said. “That’s one of the big things when you have an injury like that, you can’t let anything keep you down. He’s gotten his shot and he’s been productive, and that’s what we need.”