CAN’T KEEP KERRIGAN DOWN
By Erin Fowler
Editor’s note: On July 26, shortly after the completion of this story, Jimmy Kerrigan signed a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins organization.
It’s July, and Jimmy Kerrigan and is the midst of a 16-game stretch broken up by a single off-day. The 23-year-old Philadelphian loads himself on a bus that will shuttle he and the rest of the River City Rascals, based in O’Fallon, Missouri, three hours north up I-55 to Normal, Illinois, for a series with the Normal CornBelters.
It’s not the most prestigious league in the world, but Kerrigan is in good spirits. After a year of waiting, the former VCU standout is finally making a name for himself in professional baseball, hitting .328 with 10 home runs for the Rascals, a member of the independent Frontier League.
Although he’s enjoying success now, Kerrigan’s path into pro baseball was one of patience and determination.
A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kerrigan posted two largely stellar seasons in a VCU uniform from 2015-16 after transferring from Temple. An outfielder by trade, he was a catalyst on the Rams’ Atlantic 10 Conference and Dallas Baptist Regional championship team in 2015. In two seasons, he batted .309, hit seven home runs, stole 25 bases and reached base at a .418 clip.
Despite his success at VCU, he was not selected by a Major League franchise in the 2016 Amateur Draft. While initial opportunities to continue playing did not surface for Kerrigan straight out of college, from neither the draft, nor independent leagues, those initial setbacks did not deter Kerrigan from pursuing a professional baseball career.
“Nothing happened with the draft obviously, and I didn’t really get much from independent leagues either,” said Kerrigan. “But I did get a call from the Seattle Studs, a semi-pro team in Seattle. One of their guys had gotten hurt and [their manager, Barry Aden] asked me if I could come down and play for the end of the season.”
After his short stint in Seattle, Kerrigan continued to develop outside of the diamond, where he dedicated most of his time to his two internships. Kerrigan worked with young athletes at Elkin Sports Performance Center, as well as with the VCU Strength and Conditioning staff to help train baseball, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s track and field teams.
Through his internship with Elkin, Kerrigan was able to make connections with former Old Dominion baseball player Drew Coker, who was able to put him in contact with coaches in the independent Frontier League. That phone call led to Kerrigan signing a contract with the River City Rascals on Dec. 13, 2016.
“I ran into a guy at one of my internship and he was like ‘I’d love to help you’ so he got me hooked up and I got a contract offer pretty soon after.” Kerrigan said.
During the time between the end of the 2016 VCU Baseball season and the start of summer league, Kerrigan travelled between Richmond and Philadelphia regularly, taking every opportunity that came his way to work on his swing and stay in shape.
“I was just working out and hitting at home, I was working out at the VCU weight room for a little bit and I would go to the gym when I was home. I just tried to stay in shape and be ready to go whenever I got a call.” Kerrigan said.
Now playing on a consistent basis for the Rascals, Kerrigan has adjusted smoothly to the new level of play that comes with professional baseball.
“The competition is more consistent, and there are definitely more guys that stick out more often.” Kerrigan said. “There are a lot of guys who played affiliated baseball in this league, so they know how to pitch. They can hit at high levels, so we have some really good competition.”
Despite the increase of competition, Kerrigan has risen to the challenge. He leads his team in batting average, homers and RBIs (47).
“I’m just trying to be more aggressive and hit the ball in the gap instead of being passive and taking pitches.” Kerrigan said.
Kerrigan and the Rascals are currently in the middle of a grueling 91-game season and recently finished a run of 16 straight games between off days.
“You kind of get the swing of things, you are working out less often during the week,” Kerrigan said, “Just taking it easy on your body getting loose and staying hydrated, as of late I feel really good and I just trust in the work I put in during the off season.”
The road to success for Kerrigan has not always been the easiest. But since his transfer to VCU from a defunded Temple baseball program in 2015, to fighting for a starting spot for the Rams, Kerrigan remained dedicated through the process.
“I was kind of just confused when they cut the program at Temple. I had it pretty easy there. I was starting everyday,” Kerrigan said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I came to VCU. I didn’t play every day my junior year, but I eventually won a spot and things kind of took off when I got comfortable.”
With his new success in the independent league, Kerrigan is still grateful for the skills and lessons that he has learned from the VCU coaching staff.
“Coach [M.L.] Morgan helped me a lot with keeping my composure and telling me to calm down, [and think], it’s just a game have fun.” Kerrigan said.
While Kerrigan is competing in the independent league circuit, he still hopes to continue playing professionally for as long and as competitive as possible. He still hopes to reach affiliated minor league baseball, but is patient as he makes his mark.
“It is awesome. I get to play a sport that I love. I am just trying to keep moving up and get an opportunity to play as long as possible at the highest level I can compete at.” he said.