FORT MYERS, FLA. – Alex Kirilloff has experienced life rapidly since being home-schooled and earning his high school credits online through Pennsylvania Cyber School in the spring of 2016.
Kirilloff competed at Plum High School in Pittsburgh. He committed to play at Liberty University, although a lefthanded swing that was sound and powerful made it unlikely he would be playing college baseball.
The Twins took the outfielder with the 15th overall selection in the June 2016 draft and signed him that month for $2.8 million. He played for the rookie team in Elizabethton, Tenn., and batted .306 in 55 games.
Kirilloff and Jordan Kircher, both with strong religious backgrounds, were engaged when Alex started his professional career. They were 18 when married in October 2016 and already had a plan.
“We had talked while still in high school about living in Florida; that was the dream,” Kirilloff said. “And when I signed with the Twins, Fort Myers became the obvious choice on where to live.”
The young couple bought a home in a gated development at the end of a road off Daniels Parkway. The Twins’ complex is five minutes away (if you hit the lights on Daniels), allowing Kirilloff to work out continually in the offseason.
Jordan has been both a real estate agent and taken classes in a nursing program in their time as Floridians. And, this week, the Kirilloffs became parents, with Jordan delivering a daughter named Penelope, healthy, 7 pounds and 4 ounces.
Kirilloff is 22, a husband headed for a fourth wedding anniversary in the fall, and now is experiencing the joy of a baby daughter.
In an interview this week at Hammond Stadium, a reporter said: “You have leapt into the role of a family man much earlier than most of your compadres in this clubhouse.”
Kirilloff nodded and said: “I think that would be safe to say.”
One year ago, there was also the feeling that Kirilloff’s baseball career could be on a similar fast track.
Twins officials watching him at the team facilities in the winter of 2018-19 were unanimous in this thought: “Alex’s swing looks better than ever.” Entering spring training, the message became: “Don’t be surprised if you see him in Minnesota before the season’s over.”
The Twins assigned Kirilloff back to the minors in the first wave of players last spring, then brought him back for a game on March 17 vs. Toronto. He had three singles, a stolen base, an RBI and the optimism was clear in this quote from manager Rocco Baldelli:
“He puts competitive swings on pitches that are difficult to even put in play, and is able to do positive things with them. He’s an impressive young man.”
Then, before the end of camp with Class AA Pensacola, Kirilloff sprained his right wrist and missed the first month of the season. He had been on a hot streak at the end of May, then aggravated the wrist and was out of the Pensacola lineup for 18 days in June.
In the end, Kirilloff played only 94 games, with a .283 average, nine home runs and 43 RBI in 375 at-bats. A year earlier, he had treated Class A like a Joe Mauer with pull power — a .348 average, with 20 home runs and 101 RBI in stops at Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers.
That made the message in March 2019: “Look out for Kirilloff.”
The right wrist problems, coming two years after he missed 2017 because of Tommy John surgery, has made the message in March 2020: “Don’t forget about Kirilloff.”
Which means, Alex Kirilloff’s family life is moving much faster than his baseball life, at least for the moment.
Kirilloff, who hit a two-run homer Friday vs. the Red Sox, did finish last season at Pensacola with home runs in four consecutive playoff games. “I was swinging well at the end of the season, even though the wrist didn’t feel much different — better or worse — than it had when I was on the injured list the second time,” he said.
How about now? “I’m good,” he said. “The first couple of months this offseason, it was mostly rehab and strengthening the wrist with the training staff here. I started swinging again in January. No problems.”
Dave Kirilloff, Alex’s dad, famously first had his son swinging off a tee at 11 months of age. He taught Alex the techniques of that outstanding path to a baseball. The parents also had moved to Fort Myers — until recently.
“My mom and dad have moved to Texas, to a town near Dallas,” Alex said. “He has a friend there and they are working on starting a baseball school.
“I still talk with him about hitting. They are coming here in a couple of weeks.”
Mainly to see Penelope, not the Kirilloff swing? “Definitely,” Alex said.
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