Vancouver Canadians outfielder and Sherwood Park, Alberta native Tanner Kirwer.
Vancouver Canadians outfielder Tanner Kirwer runs everything down in the latest chapter of C’s Chat.
The Sherwood Park, Alberta native spent three years in Division 1 college ball with the Niagara University before being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round of the 2017 draft. Kirwer displayed the ability to hit for average and getting on base by slashing .329/.415/.541 during his three years with the Purple Eagles. He also stole 66 bases, including 23 in his junior season when he was only caught twice.
Playing Ball In Bluefield
Kirwer started his pro career with the Bluefield Blue Jays and collected a two-run double in his first professional game June 22, 2017. The 6-foot-0 righthanded hitter singled, stole a base and scored the winning run in his next game June 24 to help Bluefield pick up an extra-innings victory. He would collect another hit the next night and draw a walk in another Bluefield win June 25 but he would fall on hard times as his batting average cratered below .the 200 mark as the calendar flipped to July.
Things began to turn around for Kirwer in the latter part of July when he put together a five-game hitting streak. He slugged his first professional home run July 20 as part of a two-hit game and followed up with another two-hit effort July 21.
Kirwer had a perfect night at the dish going when he reached base in all three plate appearances July 23. He was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat before lining up an RBI single up the middle in his second trip to the dish. Unfortunately, his next at-bat would be his last for 2017. A wayward pitch by Elizabethon pitcher Bailey Ober struck Kirwer in the face.
“I got hit in the face by a fastball. I broke three bones. It was tough. With a face injury, you can’t do a whole lot to rehab. They wouldn’t let me do anything physically because they were scared it would flare up or something. The first month, it was a lot of sitting around. Really boring but it was alright.
They flew me down to Dunedin. I was there for a month. After that, I came back for instructs a month later. That’s when I recovered and that’s when I started playing again.
It wasn’t ideal getting hurt but I learned a lot. It was a good experience getting into pro ball. Big change, a lot of adjustments I had to make but I’m excited for a new season.”
After taking one for the team eight times with Bluefield, Kirwer was able to begin baseball activities again during the fall instructional league.
“I met a lot of guys that I haven’t met before because they were playing for Vancouver and I was in Bluefield. I made a lot of new friends. It was just good to get back playing again since I didn’t play three months before that so it was good.”
The development for Kirwer continued during extended spring training.
“It was a grind but I also learned a lot there too with a lot of the coaches. I got to meet the new coaches here, make some relationships with them and make relationships with the teammates I have here so it was good.”
Kirwer says last season was a learning experience.
“The speed adjustment on the pitchers was probably the biggest thing for me. Getting my timing down. Being able to make in-game adjustments is huge. That was a lot of the bigger things that I learned last season.”
Getting to play in Bluefield was also a good experience for Kirwer.
“It was nice. Nice park, nice area. The fans were very nice to us. They appreciated us so we appreciated them.”
Even though his season came to an abrupt end, Kirwer’s boyhood dreams were realized when he was drafted by the Blue Jays.
“Oh, it was unreal. The feeling alone of getting drafted was one of my biggest dreams and to be my favourite team since I was a little kid. It was amazing.”
“I was actually at the driving range and my girlfriend’s brother told me the news. He was watching so it was exciting.”
Playing Ball In Canada
Playing north of the border again is something Kirwer is excited about.
“Yeah, I’m excited. It’s been a while in front of some Canadian fans too. I’m close to home in Vancouver so hopefully my family and friends will be able to make it out for a few games.
I’m expecting a lot of electricity in the fans. I heard it gets packed here and I’m excited to play in front of them.”
The 22 year-old Kirwer also likes what he sees at his new home ballpark, Nat Bailey Stadium.
“I like it. It’s an old-style park. I love playing in old-style parks. Good atmosphere. Hopefully I get a lot of good energy from the fans. It’ll be fun.”
Nat Bailey Stadium will not be the first time Kirwer has played in a professional minor league stadium in Canada. He also played ball at the former home of the Triple-A Edmonton Trappers and independent league Edmonton Cracker-Cats and Edmonton Capitals.
“My freshman summer, I played at Telus Field (now RE/MAX Field) for the Edmonton Prospects (of the summer collegiate Western Major Baseball League). We got a lot fans there too. Playing in front of the Canadian fans, it’s always fun.
It’s a big park. Being an outfielder, I had to cover a lot of ground but it’s fun. I like a lot of ground to cover. I like running.”
As far as what Kirwer would put in his scouting report, using his legs is a big part of his game.
“I would say I’m a speed guy. A threat on the bases. I can run down some things in the outfield and can swing it a little, get on base.”
As for who has helped him the most in his career, he pointed to his Mom and Dad.
“Probably my parents honestly. They don’t know a whole lot about baseball. They’ve helped me through the ups and downs and they’ve always been there for me.”
For Kirwer, he has just one goal he wants to accomplish in 2018.
“Back to back championship rings for the Vancouver Canadians.”
My thanks to Tanner Kirwer for chatting with me during the team’s recent Media Day at Nat Bailey Stadium. You can follow him on Twitter @tannerkirwer.