MIAMI: Kieran Powell, a 25-year-old West Indies cricketer, has worked out before a host of Major League Baseball scouts in hopes of switching sport.
In 2012 Powell, a left-handed opener, became the first West Indies player to hit two centuries in a Test since Brian Lara, scoring 117 and 110 against Bangladesh.
But after being replaced in a players dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board, Powell took his talents from the Caribbean to Florida and began training for a career in the American pastime, a longshot given he was starting two decades after many of the sport’s stars began playing the game.
Powell conducted workouts last week for the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers and 12 major league teams scouted him Wednesday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, including the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs.
“We decided to take this adventure and it has worked out well so far,” Powell told Major League Baseball’s website. “The right opportunity at the right time.”
Following a path familiar to Caribbean youth in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic where the game is a passion, Powell simply has to adjust to balls being thrown in the air in front of him between the knees and chest rather than bounced balls with a wicket to protect.
“I know [baseball]pretty well,” he said. “All you’ve got to do is hit the ball in the gap and get on base.”
It’s trickier than it sounds. Balls hit too far to the side or behind are out of play. And you must run if the ball is in fair territory, whether you find a gap or not. And speed and swing angle adjustments from cricket style to baseball are major and vital.
Powell ignored American football, saying, “I would get beaten up very badly and I don’t like getting tackled.”
So he has worked with major league players, including Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, and there has been interest from some clubs, although Powell might need more developmental-league work before taking a swing at the major league level.
“Nobody expects to just walk in and be the star of the show from day one,” Powell said. “I just want an opportunity. I know that once I get an opportunity, I’ll make gold of it.”