Jordan third baseman John Kropaczewski arrived at the Red Jackets field two-and-a-half hours before the first game of a doubleheader to take batting practice and prepare for a long day. With only his second at-bat of the opening game, the right-hander did something many Jordan fans had never seen before.
After starting the game with an inside-the-park home run, Kropaczewski belted a three-run home run to left field in Jordan’s 14-2 win over Marion County. With a left-field wall 365 feet past home plate, Jordan’s field is by all means a pitcher’s park, leaving batters to look for holes in the outfield and work for extra-base hits within its confines.
That wasn’t the case with Kropaczewski, who used his first at-bat to decipher the Marion starter’s pitch selection.
“(I knew) right when I swung,” Kropaczewski said. “He threw me a fastball inside. It was the same pitch he started the last at-bat. He threw a fastball inside, curveball and then fastball again. I watched the first two pitches, and the third pitch was a fastball in. I hammered it. Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone, so I just started jogging.”
After Kropaczewski crossed home plate, spectators tried to remember the last time a ball had been hit out of the park. Someone suggested it had been 13 years, while another person offered it had only been six. The banter among a few onlookers about the actual number continued as the Red Jackets finished off the Eagles in the first of two victories on the day.
Even Jordan head coach Tony Dimitri, a former Red Jacket himself, wasn’t sure how long it had been since the last home run at the field.
“My six years as a head coach, that’s the first one I’ve seen,” Dimitri said. “From probably about 1990, I’ve seen a handful of about maybe 10. No, there ain’t many that go out of this park.”
As jaw-dropping as the home run was for many in attendance, Dimitri was more concerned with how Kropaczewski utilized all parts of the field. Kropaczewski legged out the inside-the-park home run after sending the ball to the gap in right-center field. His second, of course, found its way over the wall in left field.
“He started using the whole field,” Dimitri said. “Hitting the ball through the middle is the bigger part, because it means he’s letting the ball travel and he’s hitting it hard.”
Kropaczewski was 2-for-2 with three runs scored, one stolen base and 5 RBIs. He walked in his third and final at-bat after the pair of home runs.
Kropaczewski’s early-morning batting practice session set up for a strong showing in the first game, but he actually wasn’t done there. He was 2-for-4 in the second game, delivering two more RBIs in a 14-5 victory.
When the day was said and done, the Red Jackets registered 28 runs. Seven came thanks to Kropaczewski, but the three that arrived via the long ball will be the ones most will remember going forward.
It was certainly a special achievement by Kropaczewski, but the home run wasn’t something he was willing to dwell on for too long.
“We’ve got to keep the pedal to the metal,” Kropaczewski said.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports