Valencia baseball alumnus moving up in pro baseball

Valencia baseball alumnus Keston Hiura at Valencia High School on Wednesday, November 21, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

Keston Hiura says he focuses on two things in regards to his swing: rhythm and timing.

“I want to make sure that I’m in rhythm and not being too stagnant or aggressive with my front foot or anything like that,” the Valencia baseball alumnus said. “So its more of just, a rhythm. Make sure I’ve got my foot down in time for the fastball and at the same time being able to adjust off speeds.”

That type of pacing has been important in Hiura’s pro baseball career, too. After being drafted ninth overall out of UC Irvine by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017, his baseball path has been driven in a positive direction very quickly.

In his first season in the Brewers organization, Hiura spent 27 games with the single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, then 15 games in the Arizona League, where he tied for the highest batting average on the team.

His second season brought him to double-A ball, where he played 21 games with the Biloxi Shuckers, then to high-A where he played for the Carolina Mudcats for another 21 games.

Moving quickly through four teams had its share of challenges for Hiura, but the second baseman was able to revel in them.

“You want to play the best,” Hiura said. “Every opportunity to compete against some of the players, you want to take advantage of some of those moments and learn from them because most likely you’ll see them down the road eventually in another game with another team or a different level.”

Valencia Vikings baseball coach Mike Killinger with alumnus Keston Hiura at Valencia High School on Wednesday, November 21, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

Hiura logged a batting average of .272 in Biloxi with a slugging percentage of .416, 20 RBIs and six home runs.

He saw success in Carolina too, with a .320 batting average and a .529 slugging percentage to go with 23 RBIs and seven home runs.

This fall, he entered the Arizona Fall League with the objective of getting further back to his roots at second base. He moved back to the position in his second pro season after spending most of his college career at center field.

“After this Fall League I felt really confident, really comfortable with my abilities to play there and looking to build off of that and into the offseason and fine-tuning a lot of things before spring training starts,” said Hiura.

That confidence showed in the form of most valuable player honors at the conclusion of the season. He helped his team to the AFL championship game and led the league with 33 RBIs.

Hiura’s climb through professional baseball has been about as smooth as the ascent on the high finish of his swing. Valencia baseball coach Mike Killinger attributes that to the work ethic he’s had since high school.

Valencia baseball alumnus Keston Hiura at Valencia High School on Wednesday, November 21, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Weight room was a huge one where you saw the work ethic,” Killinger said. “He went from a normal sized freshman or sophomore kid to a kid that was one of the strongest players on the team and he showed great leadership in there as well.”

In college, his work habits maintained. The day he was drafted, Hiura had to take a final. He took it that morning (and passed), then finished out the rest of the finals week tests, even though it was evident that a pro baseball career was right in front of him.

“Everyone is like, ‘How are you not checked out after the draft?’ They’re like, ‘Why are you even going to class anymore?’ But they were still important to me and I wanted to finish strong,” Hiura said.

He has one year of college left until he can get his diploma – something that Hiura is set on accomplishing.

The diploma and a spot in Major League Baseball are both well within reach for Hiura. All it’ll take is some rhythm and timing.

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