Big league hopefuls

Means, Kiely dream of life at the top

Advertisement

— Perry Means and Jeremiah Kiely dream about baseball. Means isn't always playing. He is OK with just watching from the bleachers or maybe from the owner's box, like the one time his family stumbled upon Marge Schott's tickets for a Cincinnati Reds game when they were vacationing in Kentucky.

Kiely is usually on the mound when he dreams, but he always throws harder because he wishes he could.

Means, 19, is a right-handed pitcher from Yampa getting ready to play his first season at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz., after red-shirting last year.

Kiely will be a junior pitcher at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., this fall. He is left-handed.

Each would work Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, two of professional baseball's greatest sluggers, a little differently. Means would hit Bonds because he crowds the plate, and pitchers don't like batters that stand on the inside corner. Kiely would walk the San Francisco Giant and make someone else beat him.

With Sosa, Kiely would set him up with a first-pitch slider then look to get ahead in the count on curveballs before striking him out with a fastball high and in.

Means would walk the Chicago Cub.

Means may get his chance.

Hat backwards, the only way to distinguish Means from the Little League players he coaches in South Routt is his 6-foot-4-inch frame and the cannon attached to his right shoulder.

When fully healthy, Means said his fastball has been clocked as high as 90 mph. He and Mesa coach Tony Cirelli are looking to add 20 pounds on his 165-pound body. With that, both expect Means to add 5 mph to his fastball. With a 95 mph fastball, he has a legitimate shot at the next level.

"(Cirelli) thinks I'm going to get drafted," Means said. "It just gives me that much more incentive to work that much harder.

"He has confidence in me and is relying on me so that makes me want to work harder so I can get the attention he thinks I deserve."

Not that Means and his family haven't sacrificed enough.

When they moved to Yampa from Reno, Nev., during Perry's sixth-grade year, the boy wanted to know if there was baseball. There was not. Means and his brothers Casey and Jack had to go to Eagle County, about two hours from Yampa, to play Little League games several times a week.

Something had to be done.

With help, a baseball team was created at Soroco High School before Means' freshman year. During the summer, he went to Paonia to keep on playing, but reality set in.

There was no way Means was going to be discovered if he stayed home, and he had only one year of high school remaining.

"We would have loved to stay here," said Means' mother, Mary Anne. "But he wanted to play in college. We knew we needed to get him where he could be seen."

So mother and son packed up their bags, leaving behind a husband and father, two sons and brothers, to return to Reno, where Means could play a 60-game schedule in beautiful facilities before crowds that included scouts a Minnesota Twins representative has spoken with Means and college coaches.

"It was hard being away," Mary Anne said. "But it was really important. That's the only thing he's ever wanted to do."

It still is.

Over the years, his reflection continues to change as he matures, but the only thing Means sees when he looks in the mirror is a baseball player.

"It's what I want to do," he said. "I still don't know what I want to be other than that."

Kiely remembers the first time he encountered Means. Steamboat Springs was playing Soroco in a high school baseball game several years ago.

"They had some lanky kid that was just dealing," Kiely said. "Nobody could hit him, and we were mad because we thought we'd go down and get an easy win."

Kiely also remembers feeling the same way as Means nothing compared to baseball.

Kiely moved to Steamboat with his family when he was 4, only to discover, like Means, there was no baseball in the area. Kiely's father, Jack, a Yankees fan originally from New Jersey, is most responsible for creating a Little League program in town so his son could play ball.

Kiely started in Little League at age 9 and continued through graduation with the creation of Steamboat's program right before his freshman year.

He is the first product of the system that baseball enthusiasts are continually trying to build in town.

As a student at Christian Heritage School, Kiely grew accustomed to small classes he graduated with six and decided when it came time to pick a college he wanted a small school far away, where he could walk on to the baseball team.

He heard good things about Westmont College in Santa Barbara so he looked into it.

"It was a perfect fit," he said. "It's sweet. I miss skiing and stuff, but I don't miss the cold or shoveling snow."

Kiely walked on to the baseball team, took a red-shirt year and has had a blast pitching the past two seasons as both a starter and reliever. Last year, against Division I UC-Santa Barbara, Kiely threw six innings in relief, surrendering just two runs for Westmont, an NAIA school.

His story is a little different than Means', however. Not blessed with particularly great size Kiely is less than 6 feet he realizes a minor-league gig may not come his way, but he is fine with it.

He is majoring in social sciences at Westmont and might pursue a career in social work, but the fact he is a left-handed pitcher doesn't eliminate his chances.

"You don't have to throw as hard if you're a lefty because a lefty has more natural movement on his fastball," Kiely said. "And there aren't as many of us."

Either way, he is content. Back in Steamboat for the summer to work, he isn't sure if he will come back next summer the one right before his senior year.

"If it's going to be hot, you might as well have a beach," he said.

He is trying his greatest surfer impression. He hasn't cut his hair since November and wants to make it a year without taking scissors or a razor to it.

He also has other ambitious goals. Don Mattingly, a former Yankee, is his favorite player, and if he can't have the pro career Mattingly enjoyed, Kiely will settle for something else.

"I'm bringing back the moustache," he said.

Only in his dreams.

To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.