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Will Holland of Cedar Rapids Kernels adds center field to his defensive resume
A shortstop virtually his entire life, the former Auburn University player getting used to things in the outfield as well
CEDAR RAPIDS — The routes get a little funny sometimes.
Will Holland goes after some flyballs as if he’s a returner fielding a punt or kickoff. An initial freeze to judge where it’s hit, a couple of sideways steps, a couple more, squaring off, then backpedaling a bit.
It’s not always pretty, but you shouldn’t expect it to be. Holland is listed as a shortstop on the official roster of the Cedar Rapids Kernels for a reason.
That’s what he’d always been in his baseball life. No prior outfield experience.
None whatsoever. Wow.
“Yeah,” he said, with a laugh. “Just thrown into the fire.”
The 24-year-old Atlanta native was a fifth-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in 2019. He played strictly short in Rookie ball that season, was mostly a shortstop and third baseman last season for low-Class A Fort Myers.
That’s with the exception of the 13 games late when he was sent to the outfield. Not just any outfield position, mind you, but the toughest.
“The transition’s gone good,” Holland said. “I’m just trying to be an athlete out there and help my team win. That’s really all. Just have some fun, because I’m brand new at this, and I’m not putting too much pressure on myself out there. Just trying to have fun and chase down some balls.”
The weird part is Holland said he played almost exclusively this spring training at shortstop. But once he was assigned to Cedar Rapids, it’s been mostly center field: 18 games there, one in right and seven at short.
In the end, versatility is a plus for any ballplayer.
“Yep. Whatever gets you to the big leagues,” he said.
Holland obviously is a good athlete since you have to be one to play shortstop and center field. He hit 10 home runs and had 19 stolen bases last season at Fort Myers and is hitting .265 in 36 games for the Kernels, with eight swiped bags.
He went 2-for-3 with an RBI, walk and two steals in a Thursday night win over Wisconsin, going into Friday night’s game against the Timber Rattlers hitting in five straight games and six of seven.
“I feel like I’m in a very good spot (at the plate),” Holland said. “There is a lot of room for improvement, but I feel very comfortable in the box right now. Just taking my hits, taking home runs and doubles when they come. I’m just trying to ride that wave, not get too up or too down. Just try to stay in the middle, so I can come out and be the same player every night.”
“He’s been taking his walks and hitting some balls hard,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “He’s had better at-bats lately and is playing a pretty good center field for us.”
Holland was asked about the difficulty in trying to maintain good defense at two polar opposite positions. That’s got to be tough.
This is professional baseball after all, not high school or even college.
“Early on, it felt for me like it was a little bit difficult to go back to the infield,” he said. “But now it’s kind of like ‘Well, this is the easy part. I’ve been doing this my whole life.’ So everything seems smooth now. I’m not putting pressure on myself. I’m just having fun and enjoying what I do.”
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