The Journal Gazette
Sunday, August 11, 2019 1:00 am

Norwell grad Kinzer to help pick US baseball team

Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette

When Markle's Matt Kinzer was a second-round Major League Baseball draft pick in 1984, the pitcher was asked to try out for the United States baseball team that would compete in the Los Angeles Olympics. But Kinzer was also the Purdue football team's punter and had to decline.

He didn't hesitate before accepting this time.

Kinzer, 56, is one of 15 MLB scouts who have been asked to help select the U.S. team that will try to earn a berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The selection committee has to pick 48 players by Sept. 23 and pare that to the final 28 before Oct. 3. The only stipulation is that the players can't be on the official 40-man rosters of any MLB teams.

The U.S. will open play Nov. 2 against the Netherlands in Guadalajara, Mexico. Host Mexico and the Dominican Republic will also participate in pool play for a chance to advance to the six-team super round. The final four teams will play in the finals in Japan before Nov. 17.

A major league scout with the Atlanta Braves since 2015, Kinzer was asked the join the committee three months ago. Candidates must be nominated by at least two current members of the committee.

“It's just an honor to be a part of it,” Kinzer said from his home in Hammond, Louisiana, where he lives with his wife, Elaina. “Everybody does what I do, and it tells you that your peers respect you and appreciate what you have done in this game. For our country to put their trust in me as one of 15 to help put this team together is flattering and humbling.”

Kinzer worked his way through the minors to debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1989 and later played with the Detroit Tigers in 1990 before elbow surgery ended his career. He also punted with the Detroit Lions for one game during the 1987 NFL strike.

Besides working as an agent for 10 years and coaching the IPFW baseball team for two seasons, Kinzer has also scouted for 15 seasons in the majors with Tampa Bay, Miami and Atlanta. Now the Norwell graduate is on the road for about 20 days per month.

As one of two Braves' major league scouts, he's responsible for providing coverage for potential trades and scouting players on other teams, and he prescouted for the team heading into last year's playoffs. He recently covered series in New York, Anaheim and Arizona for 23 days, but that also allowed him to see his new granddaughter.

“To do all the stuff that I've done and then get humbly rewarded by being asked to be on the committee to select our USA team is right at the top for me,” he said. “The list of people involved is one I'm proud to be associated with.”

The job doesn't pay, and the meetings are held by conference call, though Kinzer and his family plan on attending the games in Guadalajara.

Fellow Norwell product Josh VanMeter would have been high on Kinzer's list of suggestions, he said, but VanMeter was recently called up by the Cincinnati Reds and is ineligible.

Baseball will be returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, when the U.S. won the bronze medal and South Korea defeated Cuba for the gold in Beijing.

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