SEATTLE – The most decorated student-athlete in Mercer University history is the talk of Major League Baseball. Outfielder Kyle Lewis became only the second player in MLB history to homer in his first three career games when he hit a 457-foot blast – the longest home run of the season by a Seattle Mariner – in the fifth inning of last night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.
“I’d like to say I was surprised, but we saw him for three years at Mercer, and what we saw on that field the past three nights in Seattle doesn’t surprise me,” said head coach Craig Gibson.
Since being called up from Double-A Arkansas on Tuesday, the 24-year-old Lewis is 5-for-11 with three homers, a double, a single and five RBIs. His first two home runs each broke up no-hit bids by Reds pitchers.
“It’s really neat watching one of our guys do great things,” said Gibson. “Right now, he’s just scratching the surface.”
In addition to his five-tool skill set, Gibson said Lewis’ perspective is what makes him a special player, “He always has a plan. He never gets too high with the highs or too low with the lows.”
That perspective has been key for a player who has reached monumental highs and persevered through devastating lows over the first three years of his professional career.
In June 2016, Lewis won the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country, and became the highest pick in Mercer and Southern Conference history upon being selected 11th overall by the Mariners in the MLB Draft.
Just 30 games into his first minor league season, he suffered a catastrophic knee injury in a collision at home plate. He tore his ACL, medial meniscus and lateral meniscus requiring total knee reconstruction, a lengthy rehab and eventually a second surgery to clean up scar tissue and a bone spur.
Three years removed from the injury, Lewis is back flashing the skills that convinced the Mariners to use a first-round pick on him. With the Arkansas Travelers this season, he batted .263 with 11 home runs and a team-leading 25 doubles and 62 RBIs, prompting this week’s call-up to the big-league roster.
“His ability to persevere is off the charts. To get back to playing at the top of the game and being one of the top players in the world says a lot about his character and determination,” said Gibson. “He’s got a great support system. His parents, Charles and Ruth, are world-class.”
Lewis’ final year at Mercer, the Snellville native led the Bears to a second consecutive SoCon regular season title and a seventh straight season with 35 wins or more. In addition to his 20 homers and 72 RBIs, he ranked in the top-five nationally in walks (66), on-base percentage (.535) and runs (70) and top-15 nationally in batting average (.395). These numbers earned him recognition as a consensus All-America first-teamer, Baseball America National Player of the Year, American Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year and Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist. He was also named the SoCon Player of the Year for the second straight season.