Kearns ready to live out baseball dream
Former Husky ready to get started with O’s
LEWISTOWN — Ever since his time on the diamond at a young age, it didn’t take someone with a vast knowledge of baseball to understand that Isaiah Kearns was a special talent.
Whether he was on the mound zooming fastballs past hitters, or in the batter’s box spraying pitches all over the field, Kearns found success at every level of the sport.
In high school, Kearns knew that he had an opportunity to play at the next level if he continued to put the work in, and on June 16, Kearns saw his professional baseball dream come to fruition when he signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles following the 2020 MLB Draft.
He is the second player in school history to sign a professional baseball contract joining Seth Wagner, who did so in 2013.
“I started to realize it was happening when scouts came to practice in January to watch me throw,” Kearns said. “In high school I had some scouts interested in me [that worked] for the Orioles, and now this scout popped back up on my phone and started talking numbers and deals.”
Kearns began his college baseball career at West Virginia, where he burst onto the scene as a freshman. Kearns went 5-0 with a 4.75 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 19 walks in 47.1 innings. Kearns emerged in the Big 12 Tournament, hitting a monster pinch-hit home run against Texas Tech. On the mound, he allowed just one run on three hits with six strikeouts in a complete-game, eight inning victory over Baylor to earn Big 12 All-Tournament Team honors.
“College for me was a real change of pace from high school and it’s something that I was committed to from the time I had that idea in my head,” Kearns said. “It’s not like high school where you practice and play. College really helped me understand deadlines and the factors that help a player like myself develop.
“In high school, the idea was to get big and beat the competition, but college was more like gaining strength, managing self esteem and stress, recovering by lifting or stretching your muscles multiple times a day, or eating the right meals and making time for snacks. It’s always been something I’ve been dedicated to. You don’t learn right away but it catches up quick.”
Kearns transferred to the University of Pitt-Johnstown following his sophomore season and immediately dominated at the Division II level. Kearns excelled as a two-way player, recording a 1.61 ERA and 27 strikeouts while yielding just four walks in 22.1 innings. Kearns allowed four runs in the abbreviated season. He also hit .400 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 17 games for UPJ.
“The season at UPJ was good and I fit in with players well. I knew a lot of guys already so it was a solid fit at the time,” Kearns said. “It was always in my mind that if I got a call I was gonna [go pro], only because baseball has always felt like something I should be doing.”
The opportunity presented itself in an unusual way in 2020 for Kearns, as he would have had an opportunity to be selected in the MLB Draft. The draft was shortened to just five rounds because of the pandemic.
Instead, he earned a chance as a free agent.
“Initially I had no idea what to expect with COVID-19 existing and putting the sports world on hold,” Kearns said. “I thought that signing a pro contract was ideal for me being that I was ready for the next step in the game.”
Prior to the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball season, Kearns believed that he would be starting his career with the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Orioles’ Class A Short-Season affiliate in the New York-Penn League, which would have reunited Kearns with his first college roommate, Kade Strowd.
Playing youth baseball in Mifflin County is something that Kearns believes allowed him the opportunity to grow at each level.
“I can say that through every level I’ve learned something that I need to re-teach myself every year to get better,” Kearns said. “From dad in the yard teaching me, to Little League and Babe Ruth, high school, travel baseball and into college, I have never stopped improving mentally, which I can say is a memory itself.”
Kearns thanked his family, friends, coaches and travel ball team for helping him become the player and person he is today.
“I’d like to thank mom and dad, my family, friends and teammates for the endless road trips and my fans out there knowing what it takes to give [me] that motivation to play ball and be a better person each day,” Kearns said. “Thank you to Flood City Baseball and the organization there, anyone who’s picked me up on a weekend tournament and all my coaches from coach pitch to the professional league.”
Now, the 2016 Mifflin County graduate will have his opportunity to see what he can do in the minor leagues.
“Signing with the orioles just helps me take that next step of growing up and understanding dreams turn into reality at times,” Kearns said.