Souhan: Roundabout route leads prospect Kvasnicka back to Twins

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2013 - 11:47 PM

Mike Kvasnicka, of Lakeville and the U, finds a trade from the Astros’ system to his benefit.

Mike Kvasnicka, since traded to the Twins’ organization got some pointers from Astros hitting coach Mike Barnett during spring training in 2011.

Photo: File photo by Margaret Bowles • Associated Press,

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Mike Kvasnicka grew up in Lake- ville and married one of his classmates from Lakeville North High School.

He became a Twins fan when he was young, and remembers watching Doug Mientkiewicz play at the Metrodome.

Mike’s father, Jay, played in the Twins organization. The Twins selected Mike in the 31st round of the 2007 draft, knowing he planned to play for the University of Minnesota, and he later became a first-round draft pick.

This summer, Mike is playing for the Twins’ Class A affiliate at Fort Myers, Fla., the team Mientkiewicz manages, and rooming with the Twins’ best prospect, Byron Buxton, on the road. He is having his best season as a pro while trying to reach the majors with a team that just sent two Minnesota-born players, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins, to the All-Star Game.

Kvasnicka’s career could be described as Minnesota storybook. But only if you ripped out a few chapters.

It was the Houston Astros, not the Twins, who selected him in the 2010 draft. In three seasons at Class A for the Astros, he hit .234, .260 and .232, flashing power with 15 homers in 367 plate appearances last year.

After a difficult first half last year, he was named the South Atlantic League player of the week. Shortly after that he dived for a ball in the outfield and strained ligaments in his left arm, ending his season.

On March 26, the Twins traded minor-leaguer Gonzalo Sanudo for Kvasnicka. On the last day of minor-league camp, while scrimmaging the Twins’ Class A team headed to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kvasnicka broke the hamate bone in his left hand.

The injury delayed but did not prevent Kvasnicka from displaying the qualities that made him a first-round pick. Entering Tuesday’s game, he was batting .298. His slugging percentages his first three seasons were .337, .368 and .412. This year, it’s .619. His on-base-plus-slugging-percentage is a gaudy .981, even though the Florida State League is known for big ballparks and heavy air.

It’s as if joining the organization he cheered for as a child has provided inspiration. “Playing in the Astros organization, that was not always the best of times,’’ he said. “It was nice to have a fresh start. I’m in love with the organization here.’’

Kvasnicka’s first experience with the Twins came when he was a senior catcher at Lakeville North. A Twins scout showed up and asked if Kvasnicka had lowered his demand for a signing bonus that would keep him from attending Minnesota.

“He handed me a business card, and that was the extent of it,’’ Kvasnicka said. “I wanted to go to college. I started switch-hitting. I learned to play right field. I wanted the total college experience, and that’s what I got. Four of my groomsmen, I met in college. Overall, it was a great decision, partly because of John Anderson.

“I know this is a cliché, but you never hear a bad word about the guy. As far as integrity goes, he’s at the top of the list, and that’s not always what you run into in his profession. As a coach, he cares a lot more about the student-athlete than wins and losses.’’

Joining the Twins organization has meant playing for one of the players he cheered, in Mientkiewicz, and rooming with the kid who might be the next great Twin, in Buxton.

“I really like playing for Doug,’’ Kvasnicka said. “There aren’t many guys who played 10, 11 years in the big leagues, who were in the majors not too long ago, who are managing in Class A. He’s a pretty great resource.

“Byron is unbelievable. There’s not anything on the field he can’t do. But easily the most impressive thing to me is how mature he is, all the way around. On the field he’s so calm, and off the field, let’s say he’s not how I would picture myself at 19.’’

At 24, Kvasnicka pictures himself someday wearing a Twins uniform, fulfilling a once-and-present dream.

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