ABERDEEN, Maryland — Heston Kjerstad is confident his power at the plate will continue at High-A Aberdeen.
He also knows that his ability to hit balls out of the park should bode well for his future as a professional player.
“There are not many guys who can poke a ball out down the left-field line, and if you can do that, you’ve got pretty good juice,” Kjerstad said.
The Orioles promoted outfielder Kjerstad from Single-A Delmarva to the IronBirds. Aberdeen’s scheduled game on Tuesday night against Jersey Shore was rained out.
The jump to Aberdeen will pose new challenges but Kjerstad appears ready.
“I’m just ready for a new challenge, another level of play, and just continuing doing what I’ve been doing and keep enjoying baseball,” Kjerstad said. “There are a lot of great players. It’s unreal. The guys I was facing in Low-A, there were numerous guys throwing 98 with unreal changeups and everything. Everybody can play and everybody can compete, so you’ve got to be ready every day.”
Kjerstad, who was the overall No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, made his professional debut last month and hit .463 with 2 home runs and 17 RBIs in 22 games with the Shorebirds.
“That’s something that we decide when the offdays roll around, but his Delmarva debut has gone probably as well as it possibly could have gone,” Orioles Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias said. “It’s good that he’s feeling healthy, obviously, and I don’t think we’re going to leave him there all year.”
Kjerstad made an immediate impact for Delmarva after missing the first two months of the season because of a hamstring injury. The layoff helped him work on his fundamentals and also add more muscle to his 6-foot-3; 220-pound frame.
“I think what I was doing was spraying the ball really well,” Kjerstad said. “A lot of line drives and everything and to me, that’s really good because normally I typically tend to fly out a little too much so getting the ball more on the line helps find balls gap-to-gap a little more.”
The beginning of Kjerstad’s pro career was delayed by the pandemic in 2020, a case of myocarditis, an infection of the heart muscle, that wiped out his 2021 season, and a hamstring injury in March.
It was frustrating to be away from the game.
“I didn’t want to be away from the game. You never do. Mine was a bit longer than you think you’d ever be away from the game so it was definitely frustrating,” Kjerstad said. “No matter how good you’re doing, I’m still missing pitches here and there and you’re still trying to be perfect–and you never will be.”
The Orioles are one of the hottest teams in Major League Baseball and it’s exciting for players like Kjerstad to see that success. One day, Kjerstad plans to help the Orioles make a run to the postseason.
“It’s awesome,” Kjerstad said. “They’re close to breaking .500, and ever since Adley [Rutschman] got called up they’ve been pretty hot. It’s just showing that the org is improving at the very top, and it all trickles down. When the big league team is having success, everybody else kind of shows it throughout the organization.”