The NEW YORK METS have signed catcher Kai Gronauer (Picture: Right) of the SOLINGEN ALLIGATORS. He agreed on a two-year-contract and will join the Major League organization in two weeks. He is going into the extended spring training program in Port St. Lucie, Florida and after this preparation period they will determine, for which team and on which level he will play. Due to the lack of depth on his position, Gronauer has the opportunity to move through the system quickly. It is also expected that he will start at least in Single A.
The 21-year-old is without a question the best German player at the moment. He impressed scouts over the past ten months at the European Championships in Barcelona and the two IBAF events in Taiwan in November 2007 and March 2008. Gronauer spent his whole career with the ALLIGATORS. The MINNESOTA TWINS and the PITSBURGH PIRATES showed interest in him during the winter. He also considered to play at the college this spring, but decided to stay in SOLINGEN for 2008. But the plans changed quickly and the METS made a strong push towards him.
Gronauer is currently batting .455 (OBP .600/SLG .545) in three games this season. At the Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament he hit .250 with four doubles in seven games. He also threw out five of eleven base stealers at the event. His national team head coach Greg Frady said one time that he is one of the best five players on his position in International Baseball. The move to the Minor Leagues is the only logical step in his development, as he can’t improve anymore in the German Bundesliga.
Obviously the ALLIGATORS will miss their starting catcher and it is nearly impossible to replace him. Nevertheless they are very happy for him and wish him the best. He also could help them during the playoffs after the end of the minor league season. They will honor him before their next home game on Sunday against the NEUNKIRCHEN NIGHTMARES and will say him goodbye.
Photo: © Gregor Eisenhuth