Alex Kliman steps up when called on

Alex Kliman certainly waited his turn. The quiet, unassuming catcher has been at Ole Miss since Eli Manning's last season of football when the Rebels wound up in the Cotton Bowl. And he's still got another year of eligibility left.

But next year can wait. The time for Kliman is now. His career appears to just be taking off.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Germantown, Tenn., product was redshirted in 2004 and played in only 10 games in 2005. In 2006 he played in 13 games. Several of those games the past two years he was the DH.

Over those seasons, three of the best for baseball ever here, Ole Miss played 194 games. There'd been a lot of watching for Kliman. That hasn't been the case lately.

In the recent Oxford Regional, he caught all three games. In the Rebels last 10 games, he's caught eight.

On Monday of this week, after three straight games to catch, he admitted he was feeling it.

"I'm a little tired, I guess," he said as he sat in the home dugout before a Rebel practice for the Super Regional which begins Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz. "My legs are a little fatigued, as they should be since I haven't caught three games in a row in a long time."

The fact that he's finally getting a chance to play on a regular basis helps overcome any rust or wear and tear on his body.

Kliman has caught more lately than sophomore Brett Basham, who had been the regular starter for most of this season, replacing Justin Brashear who left after last season to pursue a pro career.

"The first game I played (lately) was the second game at Arkansas (May 18) just to give us a little spark offensively, I think," Kliman said. "The key's also been defensively, working with the pitching staff and blocking balls up, and also getting good swings off offensively."

Kliman was only 1-for-3 against Arkansas that day with one RBI. But in that particular game, he was as effective as anyone. The Razorbacks looked to add to a 1-0 lead in the third inning with runners at the corners and two outs. A pitch from Lance Lynn flew to the backstop as Brian Walker broke for home. The ball bounced off the backstop and Kliman grabbed the ball and tossed it to Lynn who slid in front of the plate and tagged Walker for the final out of the inning.

Ole Miss tied the game in the fifth inning when Zach Miller scored from third on a ball hit toward third by Kliman as the Rebel catcher slid safely in ahead of the throw at first allowing Miller to score.

The Rebels and the Razorbacks were still tied 1-1 after nine innings. Ole Miss took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 10th, but another of the unfortunate late rallies by the opposition allowed the Hogs to win 4-3, although the Rebels won the other two games of the series.

It was an important outing for Kliman, and it sent him on his way into the postseason as a prominent part of the Rebel attack, both offensively and defensively.

"It's helped my game to play more," said Kliman, who this season has started 16 games, played in 30, and is batting .333 for the season with 17 RBI, including seven doubles and two home runs. "It helps in every way, just feeling like you're more a part of the team when you're contributing. You still have to stay focused and not get too high. Just keep it even keel. It's a long game and a long season and anything can happen."

An assumption could be made that Kliman, a left-handed batter, and Basham, a right-handed batter, have been in depending on when the opposing pitcher is a lefty or righty.

"They (teams in the Regional) threw nothing but righties, so I don't know what's going to happen with that," Kliman said. "In the SEC Tournament we faced a left-hander and I was in a backup role. Then the next team threw a righty and I took infield first knowing I was the starter. So as of right now that's what's happened, but I don't know what will happen the rest of the time."

He said he could foresee that a little bit heading into last weekend's Regional.

"I knew coming in that Southern Miss didn't have but like one lefty out of the pen, and I knew Sam Houston was starting a right-hander," he said. "I figured I was going to play quite a bit, so I prepared myself."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Kliman's progress and contributions have been positive.

"He's caught great all year," Bianco said. "He's been in the program too long to not be able to handle it back there. He's been great for us."

Kliman says the wait's been worth it, and he's glad to be contributing even more.

"Being the backup the whole year and getting spot starts, I just wanted to help the team any way I could," he said. "Coach called my name and put me in the lineup, and I wanted to perform the best I can. When your time comes, you just do the best you can."

Alex Kliman has certainly done that.

OM Spirit Top Stories