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 Worcester Red Sox

Niko Kavadas Representing Indiana in Worcester

May 20, 2024 - International League (IL)
Worcester Red Sox News Release

This is a debatable point, but you can make a case for Indiana as being one of the most underrated of the 50 states.

It has the Indianapolis 500. Two presidents - William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison - were born there and Abraham Lincoln grew up there. In 1969, R. Dean Taylor had a Top 10 hit called "Indiana Wants Me." Tune in an oldies station and you will eventually hear it.

It also sent first baseman Niko Kavadas to the WooSox. He was born in Indiana, graduated from high school there and had a great college career at Notre Dame. A blossoming prospect having a strong start to his first full season in Triple-A, Kavadas is an ambassador for his home state and his Hoosier Heritage.

"We were on the bus out to Toledo in April," he recalled, "and we drove into Ohio it was 44 degrees and raining outside. So I said, 'Isn't the Midwest great?' but everybody looked at me and thought I was crazy."

He even knows why the home of Notre Dame is called South Bend even though it is in the state's far north.

"It's because that's where the river bends to the south," Kavadas said. That river, for the record is the St. Joseph. Also for the record, the best thing about the state of Indiana is Notre Dame. Not far behind is the sweet corn you can buy at road side stands throughout the state, a taste he calls "absolutely phenomenal."

Indiana has produced some excellent major leaguers, more in terms of quality than quantity.

"There haven't been a ton," Kavadas said, "but Kevin Kiermaier is from Indiana, around Fort Wayne, I think."

The Boston ed Sox have been especially lacking in players from Indiana, particularly in recent seasons. The franchise's all-time home run leader from the Hoosier State is Chick Stahl with 17. Stahl's last season in Boston was 1906. In the PawSox-WooSox timeline, catcher Eric Wedge from Fort Wayne stands out. His 55 Triple-A homers are in the organization's Top 25 all-time.

Kavadas hit .206 combined with Worcester and Portland last year, finishing the season with the WooSox. His strides in 2024 have been remarkable. Kavadas entered this week with a batting average near .300 and an OPS in four figures.

The baseline reason is that he is making more and better contact.

"He's not necessarily swinging more, but when he does he's missing less," manager Chad Tracy said. "When you have that kind of power you're giving yourself more opportunities for the ball to go over the fence. His overall swings and misses have improved and when he hits it, he hits it pretty freaking hard."

Indiana known as a basketball state, but that was never Kavadas' game.

"You see my frame," he said. "I'm 6-foot-2, 235 pounds. Basketball would be difficult."

That frame has sort of pigeon-holed him as a first baseman or Designated Hitter. At this stage of his career, first base is where his immediate future lies. He improved noticeably at the position by the end of last season and is continuing to get better.

Kavadas grew up in northern Indiana not far from where the clocks change from Eastern to Central time.

"I live about a nine-iron from the line," he said. That means he might hit a tee shot at 9:30 and sink a birdie putt at 8:45. No wonder he loves Indiana so much.

While in college, Kavadas spent a summer playing for Harwich in the Cape Cod League. And here's another plus for his home state - Indiana Dunes National Park on the shores of Lake Michigan - sand and waves and water like the Cape but without the hazards.

"All the guys here who are from coastal towns say 'that's not a beach' but I'm telling you, there are beaches in Indiana on the Great Lakes.They are definitely different. It's an ocean versus a lake, and you don't have to worry about sharks.

"I remember being out on the beach in Harwich and it was national news how many sharks were in the water, and we had to get out of the water that day. That does not happen in Indiana. Absolutely not."

There's a lot to like about Indiana, more than might meet the eye at first. The WooSox are liking what they've seen so far of their power hitting Hoosier.

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International League Stories from May 20, 2024

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