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LETS GIVE KEARNS A LITTLE SYMPATHY

[July 20th] -- It's been obvious since their arrival that neither Felipe Lopez nor Austin Kearns particularly want to be here. With Lopez, it manifests in his poor performance both at the plate and in the field. Three errors in six days sucks no matter how you slice it. With Austin Kearns, it's a little different. Sure, he's done less offensively than has Lopez, but he'll come around; If Ryan Zimmerman can go through a 1-25 slump, then so can Austin Kearns. It's his demeaner that's worrisome. His shoulders always droop, his eyes stare silently at the ground as goes about his buisness on the diamond.

Why would a trade seem to bother him so much? After all, as every player in the big league says, "It's a business." Sure, it's a business, but for Austin Kearns, it's much more than that.

Read this article I found from the June 3rd 1998 Cincinnati Enquirer. It's title says it all: Reds draft longtime fan - No. 1 pick went to Reds' games as boy.

BY JOHN FAY The Cincinnati Enquirer
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Austin Kearns of Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky., used to watch the Reds at Riverfront Stadium.Dan Kearns may have been the happiest man in Lexington, Ky., when the phone rang Tuesday afternoon. It was the Reds and they had drafted his son, Austin, with the seventh pick in the draft.


"It just tickled me to death," Dan said.

Dan grew up in Cynthiana, Ky., and used to make the drive up U.S. 27 to games at Crosley Field. Later, he and Austin would come up for games at Riverfront Stadium. "We were hoping," Dan said. "It made my heart thump when they called." Austin is a big kid -- 6-foot-3, 215 pounds -- with a big bat and powerful arm. He was a top pitching prospect before his fastball lost its pop before this season. The Reds will start Kearns in right field, most likely at rookie ball in Billings, Montana.

Kearns has signed a letter-of-intent with the University of Florida, but he is ready to sign with the Reds. "Seventh pick in the draft . . . it would be hard to pass that up," he said. His father answered those questions before. "They've tried to corner me with that," Dan said. "He's excited to be drafted. He wants to play at the highest level. We only want what's fair." Kearns is being advised by Alan Hendricks, one of baseball's best known agents. Nothing will happen in the next few days.

"We're not going to do anything until my high school season is over," Kearns said. Kearns' Lexington Lafayette team is still alive in the Kentucky state playoffs. Lafayette plays South Laurel at home Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the sectional semifinals. Kearns was rated as the 27th best prospect in the country by Baseball America. The Reds obviously disagreed. "We felt he was the best player available at our selection," scouting director De Jon Watson said.

The Reds were worried when Minnesota, which had the sixth pick, flew Kearns in over the weekend. "We were very concerned," Watson said. "I held my breath when I heard that." Kearns has been playing varsity baseball since the eighth grade. He hit .356 as a freshman, .417 as a sophomore and .452 as a junior. This year he is hitting .577 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI. "He can do a lot of things," said Thomas Wilson, the Reds' scouting cross checker for the area. "He's got a strong arm. He's put up good numbers in average and power. He can steal a base." Kearns is 6-3 as a pitcher and has thrown a no-hitter this year. He was a bigger prospect as a pitcher before this year. But his fastball suddenly went from the mid-90s to the low 80s. That prompted teams to shift their interest to him as a hitter.

"There's nothing wrong with my arm," he said. "It's mechanics or something. But my arm's OK. The Reds will tell you that." Kearns has played every position this year except second base. The Reds brought 10 people, including General Manager Jim Bowden, to a game to watch Kearns play. That's when he had an idea the Reds may be picking him.

"Their interest seemed genuine," Dan Kearns said. "But they'll never tell you they're going to pick you. We just knew they had a great deal of interest. We're thankful they picked him." Signability is always a factor in the baseball draft, especially in the Scott Boras - J.D. Drew era.
A source said the Reds have budgeted a total of $2.5 million for signing bonuses. Kearns will get the bulk of that. But as a high school player, he's in a position to go to college and try his luck in the draft three years from now.

But Tuesday, Kearns sounded like someone ready to sign. "I love the game," he said. "It's what I want to do. I want to be the best I can."

Although Kearns is still a professional baseball player, and shouldn't allow trades, demotions, etc., to upset his timing, it must be extremely difficult to get traded from your home town and your favorite team growing up to a still unsettled situation that surrounds the Nationals. Hang in there, Austin. We're with you.
NATS NOTES: Just a few hours after John Patterson was lost for the season due to exploratory surgery on his right forearm, Jose Guillen was placed on the 15 day disabled list. He hurt his repaired elbow throwing from right-field to third base early in Monday night's game against the Marlins. Without a doubt, any trade value that Guillen might have had is now gone. There is a chance that the Nationals could still make a deal in August, but Guillen would have to clear waivers, something I don't think would happen. His salary is low enough that several teams might be willing to take a chance on him. My, how things have changed. This time last year, we were all singing the praises of Jim Bowden for his Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis for Jose Guillen trade, Then, it looked like an absolute steal. Now? Well, now it still does, but with the tables turned. Maicer Izturis is batting .281 with 8 stolen bases and Rivera is on his way to a .286-20-70 season. And it looks like the Nats won't get a thing for Guillen now that he's injured. Boy oh boy.

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