Mager Transitioning Into Utility Role

FORT MYERS, FL – He is less than one month into his first professional contract and twenty-two year old Kevin Mager is playing like a veteran. The rookie comes to the Fort Myers club as an undrafted free agent out of Rollins College, a Division II program just three hours north in the Sunshine State.

Mager hit for a .238 average in the month of June for the Red Sox with four RBIs in the six games he appeared in. He's reaching base in over a third of those at-bats, holding a steady .333 OBP.

"This is my first month here – I believe they called me on [June] 16th and I was here the 17th," Mager said.

"First impressions are huge in this game, but you want to be quick to judge guys," Red Sox manager George Lombard added.

"He's the kind of guy that you want on your team and around some of these younger kids. He's an older guy that can only do the club good."

Mager started off his baseball career in 2008 at the University of Maine, then transferred after a medical hardship to Brookdale Community College for one season and finally found his home at Rollins for three seasons.

In this senior stint, the D-II first baseman collected 35 RBIs on 61 hits for a batting average of .332. He was said to leave Rollins, Florida, as one of the most decorated players in history, with multiple stats ranking in the top-20 of both the Sunshine State Conference and Rollins record books.

Kevin Mager wouldn't change any leg of his journey to the GCL Red Sox. "I've had a lot of great coaches work with me from Maine, Brookdale and then finishing my career at Rollins. I learned a lot and that definitely helped me improve as a player.

"It all helped me, helped me with an easy transition into the Red Sox organization because I've seen so many different ways of doing things in college."

His easygoing nature and experience between the chalked lines impresses his Red Sox manager, as Lombard said, "He's already come to me and is taking balls in the outfield, and he can play all around the infield.

"He's a utility player, [playing] short[stop], second, third, a little outfield.

"[I'll play] wherever the team needs me," the New Jersey native stressed. "I'm a versatile player and can play almost every infield position. Now I'm getting reps in the outfield as well, so I guess I'm a utility-type player.

"The whole drug testing and steroid testing has skyrocketed the value of a utility guy," Lombard said. "Now it's not about hitting homeruns, you've got to manufacture some runs."

As he gets more at-bats and becomes acclimated to the Red Sox hitting workouts, Mager has a few guys to learn from.

"It's helped looking at the other players and seeing what they do. I've had the luxury of watching Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford play down her. I definitely see guys like Ellsbury and the way he lets the ball get deep into the zone and is able to explode on it.

"The Red Sox have a thing where they just let you play for the first month in the organization," Mager pointed out. "They may tinker with slight things, but they don't make any big adjustments.

"It's nice because it helps you more comfortable because you are just doing what you know and later on they will teach you what they know."

"When guys get drafted on their ability, the philosophy for this organization is that you're not going to change anything in anyone's swing for 100 ABs," Lombard said.

"But success is what is going to build his confidence. The more success you have, even if you're not getting hits, you're starting to feel good and see that you are improving in batting practice. That is where the success starts and builds."

Red Sox hitting coach UL Washington sang a similar tune. "The more swings they get, the more balls they catch in the outfield, the more they run around the bases, the more games they play, the more different things they experience, it all adds into developing their skills."

After a few weeks on the job, Mager's change of scenery and training facility at JetBlue Park still excites him.

"It's unbelievable," Mager emphasized. "Coming from a small Division II school, we didn't have a lot to work with but we made the best out of what we did have.

"But here, I pulled up to the park for the first time and saw there's was ten different batting cages – a pitching machine and mound in each one – and then you walk out to this beautiful, new facility, this beautiful, new ballpark, and it was exciting.

"We wake up so early in the morning and it all makes you excited to come to the ballpark, that's for sure."

"And it's being able to use a stadium with the same dimensions [as Fenway Park]," Lombard added. "We have two fields that have the same dimensions as Boston and that's a valuable asset for guys like [Mager].

"You can see the way the ball ricochets off different parts of the field. The earlier on they learned that the better off they are going to be."

"It's like going to school for the first time, but it's like the school of baseball here," Mager expressed with excitement. "My teammates are great, and there are a lot of good characters on the team.

"I feel like we are all gelling pretty well and we are getting wins because of it.

"I actually grew up a Red Sox fan, and I always wanted to play for them, so I guess you could say it's been a dream come true."

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