Exclusive Interview with Lake County Captains Kieran Lovegrove
From South Africa to the USA, the love of baseball goes beyond many boarders.
On Friday, August 19th, the air was cool from earlier rain and you could smell the aroma of hot dogs and apple crisp at the Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne Tincaps.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the home team was down by one run, 3-2, to the Lake County Captains. With two-outs, the Captains skipper summoned to the bullpen and brought in their right-handed relief pitcher, Kieran Lovegrove, to try and shut down Fort Wayne and secure the first game of a three-game series.
Stepping to the plate to face Lovegrove was Tincaps catcher Austin Allen, a top prospect for Fort Wayne. But the catcher was no match for Lovegrove, as the 22-year old earned his sixth save on the season, throwing only two pitches and inducing an inning ending ground ball to shortstop Willi Castro who threw to Anthony Miller at first base to win the ball game.
Lovegrove was born in Johannesburg, the capital of inland Gauteng, a province of South Africa, but spent much of his younger years in Cape Town, 13 hours south of Johannesburg. His father, who was a South African native and born in Rhodesia, came to America and met Kieran’s mother, and when his visa expired, they returned to his homeland to build a family.
With trouble continually to brew in Africa and crime on the rise, Lovegrove’s parents decided it was no longer safe to raise him and his sister there, so they went through the process of moving back to America in 1999, en route to Los Angeles, CA.
For a short while Kieran and his family lived with his maternal grandmother until his father could finish things up in South Africa and make his way back across the Atlantic.
As a child in early 2000, Kieran watched the Los Angeles Dodgers play and enjoyed listening to Vin Scully announce the games. “To me Vin Scully is the voice of baseball,” said Kieran recounting when he first got into baseball.
As for his favorite player he replied, “All through high school I wore 19 because 38 wasn’t available, so when I got to the Indians, obviously 19 is retired by Bob Feller. That’s when I went back to wearing 38, my favorite player was Éric Gagné, and watching the Dodgers and living in LA got me into baseball.”
Lovegrove continued, “In high school I played many positions and half way through my senior year I decided to become a pitcher only. It was the one thing where I really knew I had a shot at doing. I think if you were to ask me now if I wanted to go out and hit, I’d very quickly say no, it’s not easy. I hold our hitters in high regards because it is not a fun job.”
Lovegrove, who is now a relief pitcher, actually started his career as a starter, but after two hip surgeries and six to eight months of rehab, it forced him to become a relief pitcher, because tossing too many innings, would put too much strain on his hips.
In his previous four seasons leading up to 2016, he started 42 of 43 games, posting a 4-19 record, but this season solely as a reliever, he is 4-3, with a 4.25 ERA, with six saves in 39 games.
But the right hander was recently placed on the 7-day DL, retroactive to August 24th, with a Bicep tendon flair up.
Lovegrove’s goals, as are the same for any minor leaguer this time of the year, is to finish the season healthy and then return with the continued dedication and prove to the organization that he has the talent and skills needed to move up in the system. “I think all those little things that I have struggled with in the past, I want to come together and click and me be the complete player that I can be.”
In his last two off seasons, he has spent time in rehab working on his hips, but this upcoming off-season, he plans on traveling through the states, as he has seen 30 of the 50 so far. “I know I will be taking a camping trip to Zeeland National Park, might get down to Mexico if I can, and then I’m looking at spending some time in Colorado. I know my girlfriend and I are looking to move out there the following off-season.”
When off the field, Lovegrove is an avid fan of Netflix, as his current show is Dare Devil after recently finishing up Jessica Jones. He also enjoys working on his ’65 Lincoln and ’15 GTI, and is making his way towards one day becoming a firearms instructor, “I’ve really gotten into training in firearms and eventually I do want to get a firearms training license to where I can teach.”
His other interests off the diamond is art and tattoos, which include a rose and dagger on his left arm for his mother and sister, above that near his shoulder is his family crest, and a saying on his inner bicep that translates to “I think, therefore I am.” On his shoulder is a scorpion for his father, a lower leg sleeve dedicated to the infinite universe theory and the Invictus poem, and on his left side of his ribs is an owl for his grandmother who passed away seven years ago.
Since he was a little kid he also has loved playing video games, “When you play a game like Fallout or The Witcher before you know it you’ve dumped 60 hours into the game, you really feel immersed in it.”
As Lovegrove and his girlfriend spend time apart, they connect while playing the Xbox game Overwatch, which allows them the opportunity to spend time with each other even separated by various cities. “That’s our way of communicating while I am away, it’s nice because she’s a really big gamer as well. So we will play Overwatch together and talk through the headset, it’s our little way of communicating while I’m on the road.”
He is excited about this past seasons experiences and the different places he will get to see this off-season. And eventually when baseball is over he would like to have a family with the hopes that the situation in South Africa becomes better so that he can return and his children can have their eyes opened to the possibilities the world can offer.
From South Africa during the war and crime, to moving across an ocean to a new nation, and growing up to becoming a pro baseball player, the journey for Kieran Lovegrove isn’t over yet, but hopefully he can overcome the challenges that the future will bring and make his dreams of stepping on to a major league pitching mound a reality.