Making the climb through Minor League Baseball can be tedious at times. It can move slowly.
Some players are promoted quickly, and most spend entire seasons with the same team before advancing.
While it took Holmen High School graduate Jeren Kendall some time to get started with the Los Angeles Dodgers this summer — he was selected 23rd overall in the MLB Draft on June 12 and didn’t sign with the team until July 7 — he certainly hit the ground running.
It took just five games with a team in the rookie league to show the parent club that he was ready for more, and the speedy outfielder was promoted to the Great Lakes Loons of the Class A Midwest League last week.
Not bad for a player who didn’t get on the field until July 18 due to the ongoing signing process.
“It was frustrating,” said Kendall, who finished his junior season with Vanderbilt on June 10. “It was good for me (coming to a deal). That whole process went well, and it was nice to get back on the field.”
It didn’t take long for Kendall to get on track after joining the Ogden Raptors. Kendall batted .455 with 10 hits — three for extra bases — and seven RBI in five games with Ogden.
“Those first few innings are a challenge, and he met it with aggressiveness,” Odgen manager Mark Kertenian said. “It’s obvious that he’s a standout talent. He is an everyday player, and he absorbed the routine from Day 1.”
Kendall made a strong statement in his pro debut on July 18. Kendall went 3-for-3 with two RBI. He also stole two bases in the second inning of his debut, which included a 17-run outburst by the Raptors.
Two nights later, Kendall followed with a three-hit game against Missoula. He hit his first triple that game and contributed with an RBI single with an 11-run fifth inning.
“For me, I think it was just more of developing as a player through this,” Kendall said. “I don’t get hyped about numbers.”
Kendall’s first career home run came in his final game with Odgen on Monday. It was a three-run shot.
That home run ball was missing for a little while, but Kendall was reunited with it after a youngster in attendance made sure it got back in Kendall’s hands.
Kertenian admires Kendall more for what he does off the field than as a baseball player.
“He was good with everyone, not just one or two people, and that’s what a good teammate does,” Kertenian said. “He was extremely interested in becoming a great teammate right away. He is extremely bright and talented.”
After that game, Kendall discovered that Dodgers’ director of player development Gabe Kapler was moving Kendall along.
Kendall has spoken with Kapler a couple of times since the Holmen grad wore Dodger Blue. Kapler saw Kendall play for the Raptors before promoting him.
Kapler was on the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series over St. Louis. Kapler has also done TV work and played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.
“Gabe is a great guy, and he relates to players really well,” Kendall said.
Kendall arrived in Midland, Mich., on Wednesday, and the first person Kendall saw when he left the airport terminal was Great Lakes Loons manager Jeremy Rodriguez.
Most times, the clubhouse manager or an assistant will go pick up the new player when he arrives, but Rodriguez made an exception. He took that initiative after hearing good things about his newest player.
“He’s a humble kid,” Rodriguez said. “He has confidence, but he’s still a little quiet. He’s slowly growing out of his shell.”
Kendall has played in three games for the Loons, and it hasn’t been as much of a success as the Ogden trip was.
Through his third game on Friday night, Kendall was 0-for-9. But, baseball is a game where .300 is a success — and Kendall has been batting .323 in the Dodgers’ system.
“He’s not getting hits that should be falling,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a bright, young player. He has good balance and good body control. He has a good idea of the strike zone.”
One finally fell on Saturday.
In his first at-bat, Kendall tallied a triple to center field. He later scored.
Kendall says playing in the minor leagues isn’t that different from playing in the SEC when in college. The SEC produces several pro baseball prospects each year.
Kendall credits Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin for making the transition from Division I baseball to pro baseball an easy one.
“Playing against those guys, it’s big-league stuff,” Kendall said. “The biggest difference is learning where everyone is from in the clubhouse from different countries and states.”