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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spotlight shining on former Sikeston pitcher Kevin Vent

Sunday, July 20, 2003

(Photo)
Kevin Vent
SIKESTON - The spotlight is finally shining on Kevin Vent. Vent, a 26-year-old former resident of Sikeston, made his first professional all-star appearance last Wednesday, when he represented the Class AA Norwich (Conn.) Navigators in the Eastern League All-Star Game.

It's a rare honor for a player who is used to doing a team's dirty work.

"Actually, it's quite a bit surprising," said Vent, a right-handed pitcher who moved to Sikeston in the eighth grade. "It's usually starters and closers that make it to the all-star games. I mean, I felt like I had pitched well enough to make it, but those kinds of things are decided by managers, media and fans."

Working exclusively as a long and middle reliever, Vent has been rock-solid during the first half of the season.

In 31 appearances before the All-Star Break, Vent was 6-4 with a 3.29 ERA. Opposing batters were hitting just .250 against him, .024 lower than the Navigators' staff average.

Vent was named one of the San Francisco Giants organizational players of the month in April.

Vent wasn't always a reliever.

At Sikeston High School, where he graduated in 1995, Vent was the team's staff ace. He then moved on to Mineral Area Community College for two years before signing with the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Even though it's not a flashy role to have, Vent said he learned the value of a middle relief pitcher while in college.

"You're not going to find a middle or long reliever signing a 10-year, $250 million deal, but that's fine with me," Vent said with a laugh. "I don't need the glamour or whatever. I just love playing baseball and am happy to be doing it."

Relying primarily on a fastball, curveball and changeup, with an occasional slider mixed in against right-handed hitters, Vent has overcome a slow start to his professional career. Of the five Razorbacks taken in the 1999 draft, only Dan Wright of the Chicago White Sox has had markedly more success.

Vent's success hasn't come easy. Following an "OK summer" after being drafted by San Francisco, Vent underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in Jan. of 2000.

Not until weeks of the following season did Vent begin to feel 100 percent healthy.

Since that time, Vent has made a steady climb. He credits much of his improvement to learning from players who have enjoyed success at baseball's highest level, former Major Leaguers Lee Smith, Dave Righetti, Ross Grimsley and Steve Renko.

"It's great to be able to listen to those guys and pick up and little tips you can," said Vent. "They've been there and done it and know what it takes, but you have to do more than just take it in. You have to be able to apply it too."

With his first all-star nod under his belt, Vent is focused on continuing forward on his path toward the Major Leagues.

"I'd like to be in Triple-A before the end of the season, but it's really out of my control," said Vent. "To get moved up, somebody has to get hurt, which I don't want, or someone has to like you a lot. There's just a lot of different factors, and none of them really are in your control. I just want to keep doing my job and playing the best I can."

If he does that, Vent just might stay in the spotlight.