By Thaddeus Krzus
PALM SPRINGS, Calif.– Kyle Redinger of the Coachella Valley Snowbirds may feature two different kinds of knuckleballs to offset a low-90s fastball, but the 23-year old Pennsylvania native features more than a devastating pitch repertoire.
For Redinger, life has offered him the opportunity to make the most of his time away from baseball: volunteering with Special Olympic athletes.
The road for Redinger to reach this point had its bumps along the way.
The Houston Astros selected the 6’4” right-hander in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. After putting up a .186 average in three seasons as an infielder with the Gulf Coast League Astros, Redinger decided to take a step away from the game and go to school at Keiser University in Port St. Lucie, Fla. and try his hand in sports medicine.
“It’s something that I’ve always been into, with working out being a big part of my life. It’s something I felt I could excel at and make a career out of it,” Redinger said. “I was in the golf management program as well, so I was studying more of the golf side to be a golf fitness trainer, and then I just built my way up to see what I could do.”
It was not difficult for Redinger to come across a volunteer opportunity that would change his life forever, as his time at Keiser University opened up a new opportunity.
“At Keiser University, they do a lot of volunteering. Just one time I signed up to go to a golf event up at Disney,” the California Winter League pitcher said. “When I got up there, right away, it definitely hit something that just triggered me.
“I was like, ‘Wow! I need to be more of a part in this.’ Ever since then, any time I get the opportunity, I like to step up and volunteer my time and participate in stuff like that.”
The chance to have such an impact on an individual’s life has given Redinger a different view of his own being.
“Just going to see those kids, every time I’ve been a part of something with the Special Olympics, that’s just truly an unbelievable thing that’s just really hit my heart. I just really take a different outlook on life whenever I’m with them.
“It’s just a really great organization. These kids just love playing sports, they love just doing what they’ve got to do because it just makes them who they are and they look forward to it. It’s really hard to put words on how it is. Unless you’ve been a part, or been around it, it’s a really incredible organization… it’s just truly remarkable.”
Redinger has also become quite the trainer, finding instant success with the athletes with whom he volunteers his time for.
“I also trained an athlete who earned a silver medal at the Olympics down in Florida, and it was just an incredible time to be a part of,” Redinger stated. “I trained him for about two months and he absolutely excelled and got a silver medal. That was, honestly, one of the greatest moments of my life; seeing that guy on the podium getting a silver medal.”
Fellow Snowbirds’ teammate Jamall Kinard is a respectable member of the community with his Know UR Why program. Redinger has said he was unaware of Kinard’s work in the community, but it would be something he would like to discuss with the entrepreneur.
“It’s just a great way of giving back and makes you feel good. You just get a different feeling. It’s an incredible time and it’s real fun to be around those athletes, that’s for sure.”
“You’re just telling those kids that you love the sport that they’re playing. It could be badminton, or anything like that, and they would just look up to you.”
Outside of Kinard, if Redinger were to talk to his CWL peers about volunteer and charity work, he would impact the lives of the roughly 200 players in attendance with the influence they would be capable of having in their communities.
Redinger believes the Special Olympic athletes he spends his time with think the world of their coaches and trainers and look up to them for their skills.
“The overall outlook that they have on you, they think you’re the best at anything. They just see you doing it and… I really don’t know how to put words on it. They see you enjoying time and they just one-up you with the way they are… It’s just an unbelievable thing.”
Redinger’s story is a moving case that exemplifies how athletes can be just as successful off the field as they are on it.