Arkansas slugger Heston Kjerstad was hitting .448 with six homers and 20 RBI’s before the NCAA cancelled all spring sports due to coronavirus concerns on March 12. [Photo by University of Arkansas athletics]
The NCAA made the stunning announcement it was cancelling all of its winter and spring sports, along with all of their championships for the remainder of the school year due to the ongoing concerns of the dangerous coronavirus pandemic.
The news sent shockwaves to the thousands of student-athletes who saw their seasons end abruptly. One of those athletes was Randall graduate and University Arkansas right fielder Heston Kjerstad. The junior slugger was having an unbelievable season through the Razorbacks first 16 games, leading the team with a .448 batting average, six homers to go with 20 RBI’s, 30 hits, and a slugging percentage of .791.
Kjerstad, who was on the Golden Spikes watch list, has had quite the career at Arkansas.
Over the past two and half years, the 6-foot-3, 205 pound smooth swinging lefty, has played in two straight College World Series, been a two-time Second Team All-SEC selection, and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018.
Kjerstad is currently back in Amarillo during this odd situation with COVD-19, and took time from his busy schedule to talk with Press Pass Sports about his time at Arkansas, his future, among other topics.
How are things going for you during this odd time?
“I’m doing good. It’s been a little weird, and I’m trying to figure some things out. I’ve never had a spring break. I’d never guessed to be in Amarillo right now. I figured it’d been after the season before I came home. It’s awkward for everyone in sports but hopefully it will blow over eventually.”
How disappointing was it for you to hear the news when the NCAA cancelled spring sports?
“It wasn’t as much disappointing as it was shocking. We had played on a Wednesday, and were getting ready to open SEC play at Mississippi State. First they said no fans, which is weird because they always have great crowds. Then we’re getting set to fly out, and we’re getting Twitter notifications that the SEC suspended play, then it was eventually cancelled a few days later. It was cancelled for everyone.”
You had been on a tear to start the year, how were you seeing the ball and what was clicking?
“I was seeing the ball really well. After getting so many at-bats in college I was getting locked in. I had kept the same approach I’d been using I has just tweaked it a little bit, and It was rolling good. I just kept doing what I had been doing.”
I know you haven’t made a decision, but if you decide to enter the MLB Draft, you’re projected by many as a first round pick. Did you imagine that growing up?
“It was one of my goals growing up. I’ve been working for this my entire life. You want to be drafted in the first round, and a lot of things have to go my way. I’ve had to stay healthy and put in a lot of work to get where I am. It’s crazy to see it turn into a reality, and if it happens that’s great. If not, you roll with it.”
How exciting was it hitting a home run in the College World Series against Texas Tech last summer?
“That was one of my favorite homers of the season. My teammates had given me a hard time saying I couldn’t get it out of that big ballpark. It also started off the game, it was just a huge moment. Those games matter so much.”
How does if feel to come from Amarillo, and three years later be considered one of the top players in college baseball?
“It gives you a lot of confidence. It shows I’ve been playing the game hard, and the hard work is paying off. It’s what drives me, I know there are accolades and success, but I know there is another gear I can hit.”
Be sure to hear a lot more from Kjerstad when he joins Craig Sperry and Kale Steed on Thursday’s Press Pass Podcast.
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