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From Quakers to 'Cutters

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WILLIAMSPORT — Major League Baseball may not be his calling, but Brittan Kittle is going to enjoy every minute of playing for the Williamsport Crosscutters.

The Millville and Penn College graduate put aside his usual summer routine of playing slow-pitch softball and working on swimming pools to show he has the skills to play in the newly formed MLB Draft League.

It also means the plastics and polymer engineering technology major has to put aside his search for a job for now — especially after his week-long contract was picked up until the league’s break July 9 for the MLB Draft.

“I can’t really set up interviews with all the road trips,” Kittle said. “As of right now, I’m still looking for a job, but until the middle of July, I’m setting work aside. The degree will always be there, and I have all my life to work.”

For now, Kittle is set on learning more about and getting better at playing the game he loves.

Look no further than his hitting.

In four games, Kittle is batting.273 (3-for-11) with one run scored. He has worked two walks — both coming June 16 when he reached base four times against Fredericksburg — and struck out seven times.

Having seen pitch speeds ranging from 85-88 mph while at Penn College, where he was a.357 career hitter and a three-time All-North Eastern Athletic Conference first-team selection, Kittle immediately had to play catch up. Most of the league —made up of Division I talent and prospective draft picks — has pitchers throwing 92-95 mph, and with more movement.

“The velocity is obviously the biggest thing, having to be on time,” Kittle said. “Everything has to be quicker in the box — load earlier, put foot down earlier. Everything has been faster and breaking balls have so much more break. It’s been eye-opening and tougher.”

After not playing baseball competitively since mid-May, Kittle had an easier time catching than hitting.

“Catching comes easier with the velocity, and a lot of the guys locate really well,” Kittle said. “The biggest adjustment was catching the curve of some of the guys’ speeds and breaks.

“Catching, in general, is tough, but once you see 90-96 once, it gets easier because you aren’t trying to hit those pitches with a bat.”

Another adjustment, one that gets in the way of applying for jobs, is how much time he has to dedicate to the game on a daily basis. Kittle says it’s “taking up every second of my time, especially when on the road.” His routine is a set rotation of eating, being at the ballpark three hours early, playing, eating and sleeping.

Coming home

After playing a week on the road at State College and Trenton, the Spikes returned home to Bowman Field, which also serves as the home ballpark to Penn College where Kittle set program records in hits (169), home runs (22) and doubles (43).

Kittle grew even more comfortable in the familiar confines when his friends and family came out in support, earning him a nickname in the process.

“I had all of my family there. … It just felt like another day going to the field and playing the game I love,” Kittle said. “All the guys have been great, they call me ‘the hometown hero’ as a joke. It was a bit tough having to go out on the road, but once I came home, I was comfortable.”

None of this would have been possible if not for Penn College coach Chris Howard making some calls to the Crosscutters offering Kittle’s services following a catcher shortage. It’s something he never imagined he would get the chance to do after his playing days with the Wildcats, even if he did joke with friends and former teammates about trying out for the Crosscutters.

“Playing for the ‘Cutters was never on my radar,” he said. “My Penn College coach called me asking if I wanted to try this out. I figured it wasn’t going to hurt to try out and play a little more ball.”

Moving forward

Kittle’s time in Williamsport playing baseball may not be over, with the Crosscutters placing him in a four-man catching rotation and potentially using him at first or as a designated hitter to get him some more at-bats. He’ll certainly cherish the time he has with the club, but he doesn’t see playing the game as a future endeavor.

“The dream growing up was to make it the MLB,” Kittle said. “... Now I want to settle down. I’ve been with my girlfriend for seven years. I want to start a family and get a job. I’m not sure this is the best route, even if I get to sign a minor league contract.”

Kittle says he hasn’t heard from any teams that are interested in bringing him aboard. None of that matters, as he looks to take the lessons he has learned from the Crosscutters and pass them down to future generations — as a coach and hopefully a father.

“I’m thankful to have met these guys from all over the country and gaining friendships along the way,” Kittle said. “I hope to keep learning [while I’m here] and improve as a player and pass that on to future generations.

“I feel I am a great player and have the knowledge to help kids. I hope to grow the game and teach people.”

But before children can learn from Kittle, he has a kid’s game to play — at least for a few more weeks.

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