At long last, the Flip Side has returned to bring thrilling detective work everyone’s favorite off-season, lockout pastime: baseball cards.
In this edition, we will be examining a card of the current (as of December, 2021 at least....) longest tenured player on the Tampa Bay Rays roster, Kevin Kiermaier.
But first, some background on the ‘Outlaw.’
Kiermaier was selected by the Rays in the 31st round of the 2010 draft out of Parkland College. Upon making his professional debut, Kiermaier quickly impressed with his defensive capabilities. His skills in the outfield propelled him up the ladder in the Rays organization. As best we can tell, he has the distinction of being the only player to make his major league debut in the final inning of a game 163, which he did in 2013.
Since then, Kiermaier has established himself as one of the top defenders in all of baseball, with three Gold Gloves and one Platinum Glove, an award that is given to the best defensive player in their league at any position.
Now to the investigation. As another great detective once said, “Let’s put our little grey cells to work.”
The picture above is of 2017 Topps Series 1 #154 which is a card showcasing Kevin Kiermaier.
In this picture, we can sense that KK is vocalizing as he makes his way around the bases. Since we’ve all seen KK spring on the basepaths, we also sense that in this case his base running appears to be more leisurely. Could this be a homerun trot? His uniform makes clear that he’s playing a road game. Moreover, he’s wearing long sleeves and the blurred fans in the background look like they could be bundled up so we can assume they are playing in chilly weather. Also there are empty red seats clearly visible in the stands, which helps narrow down the possible locations in which this event had taken place.
Since the card was released in 2017, it stands to reason that the picture was taken the season prior, in 2016.
During that 2016 campaign, Kiermaier hit .246/.331/.410 with 12 homeruns over 105 games.
To break it down further, Kiermaier hit .253/.335/.437 with 7 homeruns over 51 games at opposing stadiums.
Given what the weather conditions look like for that game, we can deduce that it likely occurred over the first two months of the season: April or May. Kevin Kiermaier’s 2016 season was significantly altered in late May (May 21st to be exact) when he fractured his hand attempting to make a diving catch. The injury would keep him out for two months.
Thus, we can now limit our search to away games played by Kiermaier from April 3rd (Opening Day) to May 21st.
Over that time Kiermaier appeared in 18 games away from Tropicana Field, homering a total of four times, against the following teams: Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, and the Boston Red Sox.
Only one of these teams, of course, has the red color scheme we see here: the Boston Red Sox.
With our keen detecting skills we see that the Rays played in Fenway Park on April 19th, 2016, with evening temperatures at a brisk and windy 47 degrees. This game was a pitchers’ duel and went into extra innings knotted up at zero.
It was in the top of the tenth inning that Kevin Kiermaier came to the plate on this brisk night in Boston. After working the count for 5 pitches, Kiermaier took advantage of a hanging breaking ball and laced it around Pesky Pole in right field for a go-ahead home run, giving the Rays the lead and an eventual 3-0 victory.
This homerun is what I believe to be made a forever moment immortalized by the baseball card listed above.
We rest our case.