Brandon Kintzler Rolling the Dice
By Sara Normand
He was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. He graduated from Palo Verde High School in 2002. He could have made his way to the World Series of Poker. Instead, he dealt his hand in the 2004 Junior College World Series. And he won.
Brandon Kintzler helped his Dixie State College baseball team win the championship as a sophomore against San Jacinto (TX) in Grand Junction, Colorado. But last year, the 21-year-old pitcher moved on to bigger and better things, seeing most of his action with the Fort Wayne Wizards, a Low-A San Diego Padres affiliate.
But did he ever get into the gambling scene back home?
“When I turned 21, I did for a little bit,” Kintzler said, “but it kind of gets old. You realize that it’s pure luck.”
Kintzler felt lucky when Dixie State offered him a full-ride for baseball, but the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder actually went to Pasadena City College for his freshman year. He chose to transfer because he knew about their talent. But with his addition, they were clearly even better. He still thinks of the Junior College World Series today as his best memory playing baseball.
“The environment was great (at the World Series),” Kintzler remembers. “It was an old stadium with about 11,000 fans at each game, and the town was on our side because we were the West representatives. I was very nervous starting the first game, but the fans treated us like big leaguers. We won the championship on an amazing double play, and I did a belly flop on the mound, which was awesome!”
Kintzler, a 40th round draft pick by the Padres in 2004, was a fixture in the Rebels starting rotation that year, but after he signed with San Diego, the Padres sent him to the bullpen.
“It took a while (about 2 weeks) to sign,” Kintzler recalls. “(The Padres) already had their starters set, so they put me at reliever. I guess I’m stuck there for now.”
He’s not complaining, but the mentality of a starter is more appealing to him.
“I would just rather be a starter because you know when you’re going to pitch,” he said. “You can prepare yourself for every start rather than sitting in the bullpen and wondering if you’re going to pitch. But I’m going to compete every time, and I think I can bring a chance to win every game. I’ll start or come out of the bullpen—whatever moves me up—and I’m not going to complain.”
But when he got to Peoria last year, he had something to complain about. He started feeling discomfort in his throwing arm and tried to pitch through it on some Advil. When the pain didn’t let up, an MRI showed a small tear in his rotator cuff.
“That was my first injury ever so I was kind of upset,” Kintzler said, “so I haven’t pitched in pro-ball yet with a good arm. It’s pretty strong now though. Every time I lift I don’t feel any pain, and that’s the first time in two years. So I’m excited for next season!”
When he first got to Fort Wayne, Kintzler noticed that he was turning his body a lot and didn’t have command of his fastball, which usually clocked in the mid-90s. After watching some video with the pitching coach, he finished at 1-2 in 23 innings of work (19 games), with 19 K’s and a 3.09 ERA.
“I feel like I have to outwork everyone because I’m short, and that’s against the law of a pitcher,” said Kintzler, who admires Pedro Martinez (5-foot-11, 180-pounds, New York Mets) for his pitching success and shorter height.
“Pedro is short and has a power arm too, but our mechanics are a little different. One of his best pitches is his change-up, and one of my best pitches is the change-up. I like watching the Red Sox (Pedro’s former team) because they’re more of a scrappy team, but Pedro has been my idol.”
He also likes Tiger Woods and enjoys golfing himself, but golf is one sport that he doesn’t like to watch.
“I was a big golfer when I was young, but it’s just a hobby I guess. I like watching Tiger, but I’d rather play. Watching golf gets kind of boring.”
Kintzler’s third idol isn’t an athlete. It’s his dad, who owns an oil-changing business.
“I still live with (my dad) in the offseason, but I’m trying to move out because you can only live with your dad for so long,” Kintzler joked. “I worked for him since I was like 12, so we’ve always had a good relationship.”
Working with family members is an annual affair for Kintzler, as his current offseason days are filled with a routine that would make Richard Simmons cringe.
“I work out in the gym every morning and run,” he said, “but then I work with my sister at the Coldstone she just opened up afterwards.”
At least he’s throwing down ice cream cones instead of throwing down money at the big-time casinos, right?
“(The ice cream) is very addicting ever since I started working there because I had never eaten at Coldstone before. But it’s an expensive addiction too. People always say, ‘Wow, three dollars for a small?’ And I just say, ‘Hey, I don’t make the prices!’”
He does make proposals though. This offseason Kintzler (and his sense of humor) became engaged to Michelle Herr, who is already talking about wedding plans.
“She’s pretty lucky!” he announced.
Yet whatever Kintzler gets his hands on, where it be an oil can, ice cream cone, golf club, or baseball, he will find a way to entertain himself—and the public for that matter. But what could we expect? He did grow up in Las Vegas.
© Sara Normand