Although his coach merely jokes that his looks resemble those of Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, NC State outfielder Brett Kinneman’s swing isn’t too bad, either.
Kinneman, a junior outfielder for the No. 10 Wolfpack off to a 21-4 start, has emerged as one of the nation’s breakout stars in 2018. He's currently tied for second in the nation with 12 home runs to go along with his .340/.413/.774 splits, 36 hits and 34 RBIs, all despite not appearing on the preseason Golden Spikes award watch list,
“He's just a throwback to everything the game used to be when we all fell in love with it," NC State coach Elliott Avent said in an interview with D1baseball.com. "I grew up loving Mickey Mantle, and I call him Mickey Mantle because he reminds me of Mickey Mantle.”
But Avert didn’t stop there with the comparisons with Mantle.
“He plays the game like Pete Rose played it. He plays the game like you'd picture maybe Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, who had great respect for the game, Willie Mays — he'd always make great turns,” Avert said in the same interview. “They didn't play the game according to the score, they played the game the way it's supposed to be played. He reminds me of that since his freshman year."
A life-long Yankees fan, Kinneman welcomed the comparison to the Hall of Famer with open arms.
“He messes with me sometimes,” Kinneman said in a phone interview with NCAA.com. “Referring to that article, it’s more about that we kind of look alike and sometimes I wear my hat up like he would and stuff like that. He always says, 'You’re not as good as Mickey but you kind of look like him' and stuff like that.”
NC State currently has the best record in the ACC, sitting atop the Atlantic standings with a 7-2 mark, and is off to its best start since 2003. Kinneman has started all 25 games for the Wolfpack as their No. 2 hitter and a regular in left field.
Kinneman started 57 games for NC State last season as sophomore, finishing with a .282 average, 59 hits, 10 home runs and 41 RBIs. As a freshman in 2016, he worked his way into 42 games (32 starts) but his numbers didn't come close to what he's done so far in 2018. After spending the summer playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League, Kinneman returned to Raleigh this year looking to improve on “the little things.”
*Stats through April 28
“We talk a lot here about plate discipline and not swinging out of the zone too much,” he said. “You want to get yourself into good hitters counts, and obviously the more hitters counts you get yourself into hopefully the more fastballs you will get. And it all just comes down to putting a good swing on those fastballs.”
So what exactly happens when Kinneman gets a pitch in the zone he can drive? Well, this:
RT to express sympathy for the fate of this pic.twitter.com/H7JpdGNKQM— NC State Athletics (@PackAthletics) March 25, 2018
Growing up in York, Pa, Kinneman isn’t from one of the traditional baseball hotbeds as seen in places like California, Florida and Texas. But he has put himself and NC State on the national radar. NC State entered the season picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic division behind Florida State, Louisville and Clemson. But now one of the top players in the nation, Kinneman and the rest of the Wolfpack are playing with confidence and have garnered plenty of attention around college baseball.
Here are some more personal things to know about Kinneman:
Favorite baseball player growing up: Derek Jeter
Favorite non-baseball athlete or team: LeBron James
Pregame rituals? [I'm] not a crazy superstitious guy so I don’t have any pregame rituals.
What are you listening to before the game: Country music. I’m kind of all over the place, I don’t really have a favorite singer.
Favorite movie: Remember the Titans
TV show: Breaking Bad
Swept up in the nation’s Fortnite trend?: I do play a decent amount. I’m obviously doing a lot of school work but when I get some free time I’ll definitely play a little bit here and there. I’ll tell you what though, it’s crazy. We got a ton of guys that play and it’s just sweeping the freaking nation, man.
Favorite baseball moment: We hosted a [NCAA tournament] regional my freshman year. I thought that was pretty cool. Obviously, we have good fans, but that was the best atmosphere we’ve had here, I’d say, since I’ve been here.
What he wants to do after baseball: I’m a business administration major. I’m not 100-percent sure what I would want to do with that, but I can really envision myself being a baseball coach someday. I really enjoy being around the field all the time. I can even see myself getting involved with some college coaching or doing something along those lines as well.