- January 15, 2018
Stepping off the team bus in Salisbury, Maryland, Kole Enright is immediately met by a young kid and his family waiting outside of Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
He may not play for the home team, the Delmarva Shorebirds, but that doesn’t mean anything to this young fan — all he wants is just a chance to meet and get an autograph from the Hickory Crawdad’s second baseman.
Handing out autographs and being a role model to the kids has become a big part of his journey in the Minor Leagues, and Enright knows the responsibility he holds as a professional baseball player.
“It’s really neat … obviously we are trying to perfect our craft and work really hard at what we do and take it very seriously, yet at the same time (we) still realize that we are in a position that a lot of people — a lot of kids — look up to,” Enright said. “It’s a lot of responsibility that I — and a lot of us — feel to just play hard each and every night for these kids.”
That reflection and growth comes from a lifetime dedicated to the game of baseball, which goes all the way back to his playing days as a youngster in Winter Garden Little League, but it really started picking up in 2016. That was the year that Enright graduated from West Orange High, and was quickly drafted by the Texas Rangers in the third round of the MLB Draft.
His time at West Orange High was one of both success and struggles. He had the low of having a scholarship pulled, but then had highs of developing lifelong friendships and learning the foundations of baseball that he still utilizes to this day.
“I played for great coaches that were really awesome — we had quite a lot go through there,” Enright said. “We won a lot of games there — I played with some really good teammates who should be mentioned, like Tyler Baum, who just got drafted. We had a talented team, but we had even better leadership.”
Unlike Baum, Enright jumped straight into the league from West Orange High, and the difference was incredibly noticeable.
He went from playing alongside high-school kids to playing against grown men in their 20s and 30s, who were more athletic and more experienced in the game.
And just like in high school, from the get-go with the Arizona League Rangers — the Rangers’ rookie team — Enright had his good days and bad days. Every day was a struggle to realize a dream, he said.
“For me it’s been a blessing — I’ve grown so much as an individual throughout my journey of playing the game, and I wouldn’t even say the game is all because of it, but a lot of it is because of what I’m going through,” Enright said.
Despite the obstacles of playing on a new level of baseball, Enright still found success through his short rookie season — batting .313 and grabbing 17 RBI through just 42 games.
Over the next few seasons Enright bounced around between the Arizona league; the Northwest League in Spokane, Washington; and the South Atlantic League, where he now plays for the Rangers’ Single-A team in Hickory, North Carolina.
“It’s really neat … obviously we are trying to perfect our craft and work really hard at what we do and take it very seriously, yet at the same time (we) still realize that we are in a position that a lot of people — a lot of kids — look up to."
— Kole Enright
While he loves playing the game as a professional, the negatives of playing Minor League ball are always there: the costs of living and the not-so-great pay.
Those challenges are well known to those who follow baseball closely, but none of it deters Enright from pressing on and doing what he loves. It helps when you enjoy your team the way he does.
“It’s been cool to play in Hickory — it’s an awesome ballpark — and we really got everything we need being in pro ball,” Enright said. “The technology that the Rangers and other organizations bring in now is pretty high-tech and pretty cool, and it gives us the best chance that we have of making the Major Leagues.”
But what exactly is it, specifically, that keeps Enright coming back to the ballpark?
Why put all that time, effort and heart into something that doesn’t pay nearly enough, while also adding on all the other obstacles faced by all Minor League players? For Enright it’s about stepping back and looking at the larger picture, which goes beyond baseball itself.
“It’s definitely not about the money,” Enright said with a laugh. “But at the end of the day my story is kind of one that has been, I guess, massively put together. As a man of faith, I love Jesus a lot, so to see Him work in my life and just kind of progress in ways that has taken me one step back, two steps forward... In those times when I need that extra push the most, I remember my purpose, and I feel like I’m walking it right now.”