OXFORD • It might be difficult for Ole Miss baseball fans to shake the mental image of Grae Kessinger at shortstop.
The images, though, are much more varied now as the Kessinger, the son of former Chicago Cubs all-star Don Kessinger, works to climb the ladder in the Houston Astros organization.
Grae Kessinger got some reps at other positions in summer ball between college seasons but played shortstop exclusively for the Rebels.
Last year he was the winner of the Brooks Wallace Award, presented by the College Baseball Foundation to the nation’s best shortstop, after hitting .330 with 18 doubles and seven home runs.
Kessinger was named All-America by several outlets, and the Astros drafted him in the second round – not for shortstop only.
“I’m playing short, third, second. I’m playing them all. The more positions I can play the better chance I’m going to have to move up. The Astros really believe that in their system,” he said.
Kessinger is riding out the virus lockdown at his apartment in West Palm Beach, Florida, not far from the Astros spring training facility.
He got a handful of at-bats in a mini-camp where he competed in games with players from the Big League Club.
“Minor league spring training was just about to start. Pretty much they just said, ‘Don’t come to the field the next day,’ and after the day was over, here we are, still not at the field. It happened pretty fast. It’s weird,” he said.
Kessinger hit .232 in 211 at-bats with two different teams last summer. He played 50 games with Quad Cities in the Midwest League and four more with Tri-City of the New York Penn League.
Like his former Oxford High School and Ole Miss teammate Thomas Dillard, Kessinger’s batting average increased later in the summer.
As Kessinger has moved around the diamond he’s taken a liking to third base where reading the ball off the bat, the foot plants and throws are more similar to what he knows.
“At second base your angles are changing, balls to your left and right, how you have to get to the ball and throw it to first. The foot work is different, the double-play feed is obviously different from second. That’s taken me a little more to get used to than third base,” he said. “Second base would be where I feel the least comfortable right now.”