CLEVELAND — Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has built up a special bond with the fans during his nine years in Cleveland, and before heading home to Chicago uncertain of his future with the team, the veteran infielder gave back to those who support the players.
Over the last several years, Kipnis has held a locker clean out event at Progressive Field, where he autographs and gives to fans everything from cleats, bats, caps, baseballs and bobbleheads, and this year was no exception, as he spent two hours meeting with and signing autographs for every fan in attendance.
“It’s something I’m just happy to do,” Kipnis said. “When you see the turnout like this growing every year, it gets bigger and you start to recognize more and more people, it just becomes fun.
“Some of these people, whether it’s in my daily life of seeing them out at a store or they sent me a nice message, they can really lift me up. It’s nice. It’s a smile, handshake and a signature to give back. That’s easy enough for me.”
WKYC streamed live from the event below:
Kipnis was blown away by the turnout from the fans this year.
“I thought I had signed almost too much stuff downstairs, and then, come up here and I was like, “I didn’t sign enough,’ but it’s awesome,” Kipnis said. “I’m happy people hear about it, come to it. It’s not always easy to get a player’s signature, so if I can kind of coordinate that and grant that to some kids and people, then it’s better.
“I can’t tell you how many just really nice messages I’ve gotten lately, people who have stopped me to say nothing more than just ‘Thank You.’ That really does hit home. That means a lot to me. They’re like, ‘We really don’t want to take up your time. We really just want to say, “Thank You.”’ That gets me a little bit. I’ve loved this city and it’s for reasons like that.”
Although shortened by injury, Kipnis finished 2019 with 112 hits, including 23 doubles and 17 home runs, and 65 runs batted in over 121 games.
During his career, Kipnis logged 1,121 games, where he smacked 1,120 hits (252 doubles, 23 triples, 123 home runs) with 529 runs batted in, 594 runs scored, 449 walks drawn and 135 stolen bases in 168 attempts (80.3 percent success rate).
A second-round pick of the Indians in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Arizona State University, Kipnis converted from collegiate outfielder to professional infielder, and eventually, through hard work and dedication to his craft, twice earned American League All-Star status (2013, 2015).
Kipnis was a lifetime .261 hitter with splits of .333/.417/.750 on-base, slugging and on-base-plus-slugging percentages for the Indians.
In 24 career postseason games with the Indians, Kipnis registered 19 hits in 96 at-bats with three doubles, one triple, four home runs, nine runs scored and nine RBI.
Following the 2019 season, the Indians announced they would not exercise Kipnis’ $16.5 million option for 2020, but both parties left open the possibility of a reunion if they can agree on a deal that is mutually beneficial.
“Not in my control, nor a door I ever see closing,” Kipnis said of wanting to remain with the Indians.
“Whether it’s this winter or maybe a few winters from here, I’d love to always wear this jersey. Always have. This is literally a first-class organization, and I’ll be rooting for it if I’m not here. The fan base has always been special to me.”