FORT MYERS, FLA. – When he was a freshman in college, Kyle Farmer and his father went to a cineplex in suburban Atlanta to see the Academy Award-nominated movie "The Blind Side" because, well, Kyle was in it.
Farmer, who in high school ran the wishbone offense so well he led his team to the Georgia state championship game, portrayed the quarterback of Michael Oher's football team in a scene depicting their practice session. That scene had taken an entire day and at least 30 takes to capture on film, but Farmer wasn't paid for it because he feared it would be a violation of NCAA eligibility rules.
"But we wanted to at least see my name in the credits, so we bought tickets and watched that whole movie," Farmer recalls. "Finally, at the very end, it says 'Thank you to all the extras who helped us out.' Gol-dang, I'm not even in the credits!"
Yep, Sandra Bullock won the Oscar, but Kyle Farmer barely got a thank you for his time.
Farmer once feared his baseball career would turn out the same way — a whole bunch of work without much to show for it.
He was wrong about that. Farmer at 32 has already lived an incredibly eclectic, even enchanted, life in baseball, all of it somehow leading to his spit-shined role in 2023 as the Twins' most trusted utility player.
His first big-league at-bat was a walkoff winner in front of 53,000 screaming celebrants. His first time testing that arm on an MLB mound, he retired three All-Stars, including an MVP. He was a freshman All-America and owns the best fielding percentage of any University of Georgia shortstop, ever.
Yet here's the weirdest part of that zig-zag route to Target Field: It was one he largely disliked, and even actively tried to avoid.
"It sometimes felt like I was shouting, 'This is not what I want!' " Farmer, a shortstop his entire life until he was drafted by the Dodgers, said of his minor league ascension as an unwillingly converted catcher. "The way I put it is, when I was catching, it felt like a job. But when I play infield, it feels like I'm playing baseball."
Yet scout after scout watched him play middle infield for one of the SEC's best teams and concluded that those sure hands, those steady instincts, that powerful arm belonged behind the plate. It seemed so random and unpalatable to Farmer, he ducked out of the 2012 draft after his junior year and returned to the Bulldogs as a senior.
The consensus about him didn't change, however.
"I watched Farmer play shortstop at the University of Georgia," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who in the spring of 2013 was scouting for the Rays. "And all the discussion among the scouts was about making him a catcher, because he has the skill set for it. … He has really good hands and is a smart player and can figure things out and there's enough arm to go behind the plate."
It was maddening to Farmer, a lifelong infielder who never played an inning behind the plate in college. But with his eligibility expired, he had no choice when the Dodgers spent an eighth-round pick on him, then told him to get comfortable with chest protectors and catcher's masks.
Off he went to rookie ball in Ogden, Utah, a second-hand Gerald Laird mitt and a grudging willingness to learn serving as his new best friends.
"It was that or give up baseball," Farmer said. "My first-ever game as a catcher, I had my shin guards on backwards. Woke up the next morning, didn't feel any part of my body, I was so sore. It was the first time I ever did it. So I had to learn."
The thing is, seeing no other route to the big leagues, he did. He changed his workout routine and put on 30 pounds in the weight room. He learned how to go over a scouting report and commit it to memory. He learned how to set up hitters, and frame pitches to steal strikes.
"It was a grind. Catching is a big deal, where you're not only taking care of your hitting and fielding, but you're taking care of your pitchers, too," Farmer said. "And it can be brutal. I got three concussions from foul tips, and a broken bone. A guy once swung and missed and hit me in the head. Knocked me out. I had to get six stitches, and they didn't have any numbing medicine, so they stitched me up without any painkiller."
Though he was never considered the equal of fellow catching prospects Yasmani Grandal or Austin Barnes as they came up through the Dodgers system, he earned respect for how well he adapted to a completely foreign role.
"I liked throwing to him. He received pitches really well, and we had a good relationship. We still do," said pitcher Brock Stewart, a Dodgers teammate who this spring has been reunited with Farmer in the Twins clubhouse. "His position should just be: 'Baseball player.' He's just good at the game."
Farmer learned by catching stars like Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias and Walker Buehler during spring training. He became so adept at catching, he was chosen to the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati as the United States team's backup catcher behind Kyle Schwarber. And in late July 2017, he was called up to the majors.
"I'll never forget his first game. We're in first place and Dodger Stadium is sold out for the Giants," Stewart said. "They need a pinch hitter and send up this new guy [Farmer] making his big-league debut. He gets a fastball away, sticks his bat out and shoots it down the right-field line, two runs score. Someone [Corey Seager] was on second, but the winning run, Justin Turner, was on first.
"And we just went nuts."
The Dodgers were well-stocked with willing catchers, though, so they began giving Farmer occasional assignments around the infield, a big relief to Farmer. He was amused at the shock expressed by fans and teammates at his mobility and comfort level as a fielder, "as though I hadn't been doing it my whole life." But he felt blocked at every position, so he requested a trade.
The Dodgers obliged in December 2018, sending him to the Reds "as the fine print in the [Yasiel] Puig trade," as Farmer puts it. "It worked out great. Career-saving."
That's because the Reds, though needing him for a couple weeks as a catcher, committed to letting him play all over the infield. He even pitched once during a blowout, and his 1⅓ scoreless innings include retiring the Cubs' Kris Bryant, Jason Hayward and Javy Baez.
By 2021, he was Cincinnati's starting shortstop, one who contributed 80 extra-base hits over two seasons, including 30 home runs.
Now, after an offseason trade, he's in Minnesota, prepared to serve as backup at any infield position — and happy about it.
"It's good, yeah. I like it here, and I'm pretty realistic. I'm 32 now, and any opportunity I get, I'll take advantage of," he said. "I don't regret spending my entire minor league career playing a position I didn't want. I mean, it got me to the big leagues, so how could I? But I wonder how my career might have been different, of course I do.
"No complaints, though," he concluded with a laugh. "I mean, I got to meet Sandra Bullock."