For years, autumn was time for football for Patrick Kivlehan. As recently as two years ago, he was playing safety for Rutgers with baseball as an afterthought.
But all that has changed. After four years of playing football for the Scarlet Knights, Kivlehan began playing baseball again in 2012 and has done nothing but hit since returning to the sport. He won the Big East Player of the Year Award that spring and hasn't slowed down since the Mariners selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
Now, Kivlehan is ranked as the Mariners' No. 16 prospect and is playing with some of the game's future stars in the Arizona Fall League. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Tuesday, helping Peoria to a 5-3 victory against Salt River at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The victory gave Peoria back-to-back wins after snapping its four-game losing streak Monday.
Kivlehan said he occasionally finds himself thinking about the path he's taken to professional baseball.
"Mostly in the offseason when I'm at home late at night and I'm doing nothing," Kivlehan said, "I'm thinking about where I've been and where I've come from. Hopefully one day make it [to the Major Leagues]."
Spending the fall in baseball's "finishing school" could be an important step as Kivlehan keeps working toward Seattle. But it hasn't been easy so far. Before Tuesday, he had struggled at the plate in the AFL. He was 3-for-17 with four strikeouts in his first five games.
Kivlehan wasted no time breaking out of his slump Tuesday as he singled in his first plate appearance. Though he would be erased on a fielder's choice one batter later, he helped spark a three-run third inning for the Javelinas. He also hit an RBI single in the fourth inning to add to Peoria's lead.
"I felt good," Kivlehan said. "I just wanted to stay aggressive and get my pitch to hit."
Though the Javelinas scored just five runs, they had 15 hits against the Rafters. Kivlehan was one of six players with multiple hits, a group that also included Chris Taylor, his Mariners teammate. Taylor went 2-for-4 with a triple and a run.
Peoria got a solid game from its pitching staff. Left-hander Alex Sogard threw two hitless innings to start the game and four relievers combined to allow three runs in seven innings.
Kyle Parker, the Rockies' No. 9 prospect, hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to give the Rafters their first run of the night. They scored two more in the sixth inning on back-to-back doubles by Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinals' No. 7 prospect, and Parker. A former two-sport star himself at Clemson, Parker finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
But the victory belonged to Kivlehan and Peoria. He said the most important thing for him this fall is to take advantage of all the extra playing time he gets in the AFL. After missing out on four years of developmental time, he knows he still has a lot to learn about the intricacies of the game.
"I want to get as many reps as possible," Kivlehan said. "The more reps I get, the more situations I'll be put in and be ready for in the future."
Kivlehan said while he misses the adrenaline rush football games once provided him, he doesn't miss the practices. Instead, he's happy to be making up for lost time on the baseball field.