September 2, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
Ross Kivett sat in an empty Tointon Family Stadium and glanced around.
The 2013 Big 12 Player of the Year was dressed head-to-toe in K-State apparel, and after a busy summer playing baseball with the Cape Cod League, he had just began fall semester classes of his senior year.
"It's crazy to be back," he said as he smiled.
The hustle and bustle of the Wildcat football season about to take place was only a few hundred yards away from where he sat, and you could almost feel the electricity of the new season approaching in the air.
But that's just how it is in the Little Apple - that K-State passion - and with one decision Kivett could have been living a completely different life far from this town he came to love.
Last June, after helping lead his team to the greatest season in K-State baseball history, Kivett was drafted in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians - his hometown team.
While having the opportunity to play professionally for your home city may sound a lot like a dream come true, Kivett has been chasing another dream almost his whole life, a dream he came short of by a single run last May.
The 2013 K-State Baseball team finished its season 45-19 - a record high for wins - it won its first conference title in 80 years and, for the first time ever, made it to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
But the historic season came to an end after K-State lost 4-3 in extra innings at Oregon State in the Super Regional finale.
Had Kivett and the Wildcats defeated Oregon State, they would have continued on to the College World Series in Omaha.
"Ever since I was a little kid my dream was to go to Omaha," Kivett explained, "to experience that atmosphere and play in that stadium. I was so close, but not close enough."
The decision whether to take the opportunity with the Indians or to stay at K-State wasn't an easy one. As a matter of fact, Kivett stayed in Manhattan and took two weeks to weigh his options and to make sure his decision was not solely based on his emotions at the time.
"It was tough," Kivett said. "I stayed in the confines of my apartment here. If I had went home, I might have been tempted to make a decision just because I was at home. It was hard, and it's unfortunate that I passed on (Cleveland) because it is my hometown, but I've got no regrets in my decision and as soon as I got back here, I was like, 'Yes, it was the right decision to come back.'"
Kivett decided to publically announce his decision on June 20 through Twitter with this message:
"Wow. What a wonderful year. We accomplished so much as a team and as individuals and I could not be prouder of the men I went to battle with in 2013. I could go on and on of the year of firsts and the individual accolades but we don't have that much time. First and foremost thank you to all the wildcat supporters, the Tointons, Mike Clark, John Currie, Casey Scott and the Ahearn Fund members for making this dream season possible.
Thank you 3Maw nation y'all got after it this year, fighting the weather and making "The Toint" an extremely hard place to play for our opposition. I wouldn't expect anything else from this great community. All of our student athletes appreciate the constant love and support and we take pride in representing you while wearing the purple. You don't hear that enough.
Now. As for me. I chose this school because I felt the brilliant staff and K-state and Coach Hill would groom me into a potential major league prospect. I am truly blessed to have been drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round. My hometown team. I remember growing up idolizing the Tribe players in the '90s like Lofton, Vizquel, Alomar Jr., and Jim Thome. I cannot put into words how proud I was of that selection. They say that opportunities come and go, and those successful take advantage of every opportunity.
I have decided after long deliberation, outside advice, prayer and speaking with my family that it would be best if I RETURN to Kansas State for my senior year! We have an opportunity to be special and I hope you all are along for the ride. There is still a bitter taste, and we as Title Town know there is some #unfinishedbusiness. Thank you again and look forward to seeing you all throughout the next year.
Yours in purple
Ross Kivett #7"
The response from K-State friends and fans was nothing but positive.
"It was awesome," Kivett said about the response to his Tweet letting fans know he would play another season at K-State. "I didn't really know that it was going to get that big - one retweet led to 200 - my phone was getting blown up on my way driving home to Cleveland that day. Everything was warm. This place is so special."
With the decision to return to Manhattan comes a high expectation from Kivett in the year to come.
He has his sight set on Omaha, and said he'll do whatever it takes to get there - starting with being a leader to his teammates.
"This year my goal is to be a leader, try and mold some of the younger guys into a leadership role like we molded the younger guys last year," Kivett said. "I think I was a little selfish in the beginning of the year - I want to get drafted, I want to do this, I want to do that - but this year, I'm coming in and it's just team. I'm not worried about accolades, I'm not worried about the draft, I'm worried about this team and making sure that we're doing our job in the classroom, on the field and off the field and we're going to try and lead by example."
Along with being a leader, Kivett is working towards becoming the best baseball player he can be. He didn't take the summer lightly, and is ready to give it his all in the Wildcats' fall training, so when spring rolls around he'll be ready to show fans, the Big 12 and the nation what he's all about - again.
This summer Kivett and K-State senior Shane Conlon played baseball with the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod League. Playing against some of the nation's best college athletes, Kivett said the competition and training over the summer has been nothing but positive.
"It gets me prepared for the next level," Kivett said. "I feel like I played a season of minor league ball being out against some of the best amateur college guys around. They call it the most prestigious league for a reason because you're facing some of the best guys every night, and I feel pretty good about it."
Kivett was named a Cape Cod League All-Star and, along with Conlon, helped lead the Firebirds to the league's championship series after going 24-19-1 during the regular season. Kivett finished the summer with a .366 batting average and had 10 doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI.
Now back at K-State, Kivett is happy to be surrounded by the team, friends and fans he loves.
"I'd be lying if I didn't put that into my decision, another year with the best fans and the best community in the country," Kivett said. "I mean, that pep rally the other night showed me that, man, these people are serious. They want to see three more titles, and hopefully that happens. There's a lot of expectations and I want to be a part of it."
There is so much about K-State and Manhattan that played into Kivett's decision to stay, so this year he isn't taking anything for granted. Off the field, he wants to get out in the community more, continue spending time with his teammates and continue going to football and basketball games supporting his fellow student athletes.
"All those things that I came back for," he said.
While last season may have ended leaving Kivett with a bitter taste in his mouth after coming so close to his ultimate goal in college baseball, he has no doubt in his mind that the 2013 K-State Baseball team was a exceptional group of men of which he won't soon forget.
"That was a special year, and when I think about it I get the chills a little bit," Kivett said. "I mean, Jared King, Tanner Witt, and Jon Davis, you can't speak enough about those guys. They laid a foundation for the next guys. It was special, and I guess I'm just kind of focused on getting this team two more runs and into that next game, but I can't even put into words, the only thing I can say is special. It was a special group."