He was drafted out of high school in the 30th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates but he was sent to the Tigers as the player to be named later in a trade that sent Randall Simon to the Pirates. It was an adjustment period for Kirkland to get used to his new organization but he quickly lived up to all the expectations, hitting over .300 in each of his first two professional seasons. Kirkland met his first huge obstacle in 2004 and he did not handle it well. He got off to a really slow start and he was never able to recover, in fact he seemed to sink deeper and deeper as the season went on.
Since 2004 it has really been an up and down career for Kirkland but in 2007 it seemed to hit rock bottom. He did not play at all in the final week of the regular season or in the Eastern League Playoffs. There was plenty of doubt about the future of his career but he started 2008 in Erie once again, with the hopes of resurrecting his career. He started out the 2008 campaign going 0-for-28 but for the first time in his career he seemed to handle it fine. "It was tough but I had already thought about it and it didn't affect me the way it would have last year" Kirkland said, adding "Last year I would have been freaking out about it.".
Kirkland has always admitted that he was his own worst enemy and it seems that although he has all the physical tools to be a great player he has struggled with the mental aspect of the game. It's the mental aspect that Kirkland hopes has changed for him. "Attitude is where he is starts, I'm having fun playing baseball again." he said. That outlook has helped through a rough start to the 2008 season, a start that he may not have recovered from in the past. For Kirkland it's about becoming more comfortable playing the game again and not about the end result.
"As slow as I started I actually put together some good at-bats and that was my main goal, not to look at the results as much as quality at-bats. Over the course of a long season I think it will definitely pan out".
Kirkland has always been termed a power hitter, a title that may have hurt him more than it helped him. If you glance at the career statistics for Kirkland the more home runs he hits the lower his batting average is, except 2005 in Lakeland when he had his best season hitting .266 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI. Kirkland has come to grips with that and he understands that it's not always about hitting the long ball.
"I think I'm a better hitter when I don't hit as many home runs. I'm going to run into a few home runs but I'm actually better when I don't try to hit home runs because I don't strike out as much. I look for more walks and work the counts a little better".
If Kirkland wants to continue his upward climb this season and for the rest of his career it is completely about attitude. He will need to work hard at both the physical and mental aspect of the game. He seems to have put the game in perspective and he understands it better than he did as recently as last season.
He recently said "It doesn't matter if it's a good day or a bad day, we are never as good as our best and we are never as bad as our worst". If he can follow that advise and not lose focus he may be able to realize his full potential. He was able to dig himself out of a huge slump to start the season because of his new outlook on the game. "I've just been trying to see the ball better and I've been missing a few but that's kind of the way it goes. It's a roller coaster and you just have to ride it" Kirkland said. A roller coaster is the perfect way to sum up the career of Kody Kirkland and we'll have to wait and see how the ride concludes.