Former Patriot works way through minor leagues

Tim Laurent, Sports Writer

Not many college athletes have their dream of playing professionally fulfilled, but former Patriot Barrett Kleinknecht had this dream become a reality when he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the twelfth round of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft.

During Kleinknecht’s senior year at FMU, he had a batting average of .371 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs. He was the team leader in each of these categories. He earned All-American honors and received All-Peach Belt Conference recognition during each of his two seasons at FMU.

Kleinknecht currently plays in the Braves’ farm system. Every major league organization includes a farm system consisting of numerous teams and leagues designed to prepare prospects for the challenging task of playing professionally.

This is what is known as the minor leagues, and this is where Kleinknecht now finds himself.

Kleinknecht recalled his experience the day he was drafted.

“I was in the McLeod Sports Medicine wing getting treatment on my arm when my scout called me and told me I was just drafted in the twelfth round,” he said.

Kleinknecht’s father Bob Kleinknecht coaches baseball locally as the head coach at West Florence High School.

Bob Kleinknecht said that he remembers the news as his son reported to him.

“On draft day, I was cutting the grass at the West Florence baseball field,” Bob Kleinknecht said. “Barrett called and left a message saying that I needed to call him because he had some good news for me.”

Kleinknecht was drafted number 374 overall and number 19 in the twelfth round.

Upon being drafted, Kleinknecht broke into the minors with the Danville Braves as part of the Appalachian League. He played in 53 games for Danville and hit five home runs and 35 RBIs. He had 66 hits and a batting average of .301.

After completing his stint with Danville, Kleinknecht finished the 2010 season in the South Atlantic League while playing for the Rome Braves. In his short time with Rome, Kleinknecht had three hits in 19 at bats while gathering three stolen bases.

Kleinknecht was given a chance to improve those numbers entering the 2011 season, as he remained a member of the Rome team. In 30 games with Rome in the summer of 2011, he hit four home runs and batted in 15 RBIs, earning a batting average of .254.

Kleinknecht is now playing for his third team in the Braves’ farm system, the Lynchburg Hillcats, in the Carolina League. A shortstop by trade, he has been playing a variety of positions, including first base.

Kleinknecht is currently having success with Lynchburg.

“Realistically I plan to play in Double A next year (Mississippi) and hopefully move up to Triple A (Gwinnett) by the end of next year,” Kleinknecht said. “I really believe I have a shot at playing in the major leagues, but I know it’s still going to be a grind and a lot of hard work.”

Triple A is the final level before a player reaches Major League Baseball.

Bob Kleinknecht said that he is happy that the Braves drafted Kleinknecht.

“The Braves are a great organization and are located in the southeast,” Bob Kleinknecht said. “This allows friends and family to see him play. This is an opportunity of a lifetime to get a chance to play professional baseball. He continues to work hard every day to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Even though the strain of the season is draining, Bob Kleinknecht said that his son still finds ways to give back.

“He is always looking for ways to give back to the game of baseball,” Bob Kleinknecht said. “Last off-season between his workouts, he would come and help West Florence with our off-season conditioning and skill work. We are proud of Barrett on and off the field as he continues to do community service along with his pursuit of his dream.”

Kleinknecht is the ninth FMU player to be drafted in the past nine years, and he is the earliest draft pick of these players.

Fans may wish to keep an eye out for Kleinknecht as he continues through the minor leagues. He has not yet completed two full seasons in the minors and is already with his third team in the Braves’ organization.