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Arizona baseball infielder Kevin Newman is sneaky good at pingpong


File Photo / The Daily Wildcat

Arizona baseball infielder Kevin Newman (2) bats during Arizona’s 6-5 win against UCLA at Hi Corbett Field on April 13. According to Newman and his teammates, pingpong is one of his lesser known talents.

Google search “Kevin Newman,” and you’ll find more than the Arizona junior shortstop’s endless baseball highlights, statistics and awards.

You may have to sift through a few pages of honors — from two-time Cape Cod League All-Star, to 2013 and 2014 Pac-12 All-Conference player, to Baseball America’s No. 27 sophomore prospect, 2013 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American — but if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that Newman has a second, more unconventional love: pingpong.

He lists it as a hobby in his biography on the Arizona Athletics website, but he says that it’s a little more than that.

“My sister and my dad were both collegiate tennis players, so we always had a pingpong table, because pingpong is the closest thing to tennis,” Newman said. “My sister is five to six years older than me, so I was really young playing all of her friends, and I got really good at it.”

Since arriving at Arizona in 2012, he’s taken his talents to challenge his teammates, but he said he has to play left-handed most of the time to “make it fair.”

One teammate who can almost handle the heat is right-handed pitcher Nathan Bannister.

“I have beaten him,” Bannister said. “But that was back in the freshman dorms. Other than that, he has the upper hand on me.”

Newman, recently listed with fellow junior teammate second baseman Scott Kingery as a preseason All-American by, is one of Arizona’s key returners this season. He and Kingery, who played center field last year, are now the core of Arizona’s middle infield at shortstop and second base.

Still, Newman likes to say he is better at playing table tennis than he is at baseball.

Head coach Andy Lopez is one person who said he’s glad Newman stuck with the baseball route.

“I think that if Newman plays the way the way he’s capable of playing, he’ll take away the ‘preseason’ part of the Preseason All-American,” Lopez said. Lopez listed Newman as an integral teammate for the Wildcats this season.

If his past collegiate years are any indication of what’s to come, Lopez will probably be right. 

Newman batted .336 freshman year and .304 his sophomore season, both of which were fourth on the team. He raked in two consecutive Cape Cod Baseball League batting titles as well, batting .375 and .380 each season.

Newman’s defensive performance in 2014 also holds some merit; he was ninth in Pac-12 Conference play in assists with 149 and boasted a .958 fielding percentage.

Surprisingly, Newman attributed a lot of his talent on the diamond to his skills in pingpong.

“It helps with my hand-eye coordination,” Newman said. “A lot of ball teams actually have a table in their clubhouse for that specific reason.”

Unfortunately, Arizona doesn’t house a pingpong table in its locker room like Rice University, which the Wildcats will see Feb. 20-22. Newman works around that by sometimes going to the pingong club on campus.

With the season starting next Friday against Eastern Michigan, odds are you won’t see Newman at the pingpong club’s meetings each Friday at 6 p.m., but if you want to see his skills, he uploaded a YouTube video of highlights against childhood friend Steven Halcomb, who now plays for the Milwaukee Brewers organization.


Follow Nicole Cousins on Twitter.

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