GARY | Saturday was Hat Night at U.S. Steel Yard, so it was fitting that the stadium’s newest contracted inhabitant has worn many hats in the past month.
Right-handed relief pitcher Kyle Lindquist, signed by the RailCats Saturday after being released by the team Monday, was late to spring camp because he was contractually obligated to another baseball job -- assistant groundskeeper at his alma mater, Marietta (Ohio) College.
“I was cutting the grass, working the field, watering, using clay, edging -- you name it,” Lindquist said. “I only got to draw the lines twice. It’s not as easy as it looks.”
He pitched two scoreless, hitless innings with one walk, covering the sixth and seventh innings for the RailCats on Saturday night against Lincoln.
The Columbus, Ohio, native spent the last few months working 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in a combined role as the No. 2 man on a two-man grounds crew and an unpaid volunteer assistant coach at Marietta, where he was the closer for the 2011 and 2012 Division III national champions.
Two hours before Saturday’s game, his first regular-season tilt with the RailCats, who received Lindquist in an offseason trade with Frontier League member Rockford, the pitcher learned the team he was helping coach until recently had been eliminated in the championship of the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional.
A holder of a degree in marketing, Lindquist had been in the region since his release. He appeared in just one exhibition game and pitched one simulated game for RailCats talent evaluators since his late arrival from Ohio.
“They said if I hung out they were going to try to see what they could do with me,” Lindquist said. “And if it came, great; if it didn’t, then I was going to try to find something else.
"This is a good team and a good league, especially coming from the Division III ranks.”
Lindquist’s signing came following the release of Takahiro Matsuka, a Japanese export who allowed three runs and hit three batters in his debut Friday night.
“(Lindquist) is the consummate pitcher that you see coming out of the collegiate level. … He’s a gutty little competitor,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said.
“Marietta College, I have a lot of respect for their program because I had a lot of their players at my first job as a manager.”
Gary already has two options for closing games, and Lindquist does not throw more than 90 mph. The scouting report is that he’s a fiery game-ready pitcher who should fill a middle relief need exacerbated by the use of a four-man starting rotation.
“I’m not going to throw 90-95 at all, but I’ll just go out there and try to beat the batter any time I can as much as I can,” Lindquist said.
A self-described lifelong jock, Lindquist played baseball and basketball in high school and was primarily a middle infielder until his sophomore year of college when he took over as the Etta Express’s closer.
His grandfather Ray Lindquist played in the minor leagues for affiliates of the St. Louis Browns and New York Yankees. His dad played baseball for Tufts University, and his mom played tennis at Ohio State.
“I’m just a competitive person by nature,” Lindquist said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m playing chess or checkers. I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to win.
"And that translates over to baseball.”