Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Where Are They Now: Kurt Ainsworth (2001-03)

As much as we love baseball, there are times when baseball can show it's cruel side. The cruel side is when a player with a lot of talent is unable to compete because of injuries - we this happen every season. And without question, the Giants have had their share of players that showed flashes of brilliance only to be curtailed by nagging injuries. In our view, Kurt Ainsworth is on top of that list. Kurt was drafted by the club in 1999 amateur draft in the first round (24th pick) after playing collegiately at Louisiana State University. After signing, Kurt spent the '99 season with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Class A Northwest League, where he started 10 games and accumulated a record of 3-3 and an ERA of 1.61.

In the 2000 season, Kurt played for the Shreveport Captains (AA) of the Texas League where he went 10-9 with an ERA of 3.30 and 130 strikeouts in 158 innings. The following year, he started with Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League where he went 10-9, with an ERA of 5.07 in 27 games. Later that season, Kurt was called up to the Big Club and made two relief appearances.

The following year is when Kurt's physical ailment started impacting his performance. He started the season in the starting rotation and went 5-4 in 11 stars with a 3.82 ERA, but started experience inflammation in his shoulder. He was placed on the DL on June 3, and made a rehab start on June 15 but was pulled after two innings. It was later determined that his shoulder blade was broken. As the Giants were making another run to the playoffs following their disappointing World Series performance, the club traded Kurt and Damian Moss to Baltimore for Sidney Ponson. At the time of the trade, Ponson was having a Cy Young Award year, he had a record of 14-6 with a 3.77 ERA. He appeared to be the strong arm the club needed at the time, but once he arrived to the City he floundered by posting a record of 3-6 in 10 starts.

Kurt didn't fare any better once he was in Baltimore, he made only 10 appearances in a two-year span before finally retiring from the game. His last Major League appearance was on May 10, 2004 after having a heralded amateur and minor league career. What we liked about Kurt was his competitiveness on the mound, he reminded us of Orel Hershiser. Clearly, he had the stuff to succeed on the Major League level, but his body simply wouldn't allow him to compete. Several other pitchers (Jesse Foppert, Noah Lowry) from the 2003 Giants club also suffered physically that limited their careers.

Where is he now? Though Kurt is no longer playing, he's still involved with the game. In 2002, Kurt was co-founder of Marucci Sports, and has maintained a leadership position with the company following his retirement. Marucci is manufacturer of premium baseball equipment, most notably metal and wood bats. Their wooden bats with the iconic slanted "M" logo is one of the most popular bats used by Major Leaguers today. In fact, several current Giants use Marucci, and Ryan Vogelsong often wears their hat during postgame interviews.

Marucci Sports: CBS This Morning Interview

Kurt Ainsworth: 2000 Bowman Rookie Card

Kurt Ainsworth pitching at AT&T Park

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