BRISTOL - After playing eight seasons of pro baseball, Bristol Eastern graduate and former New Britain Bee Kevin Rivers has decided to walk away from the game and has taken a behind-the-scenes job at ESPN.
“It was definitely a tough call,” Rivers said. “Baseball is all I’ve known for 23 years - Little League, AAU, college and professional. I haven’t been home in a long time. It’s been my entire life. It’s what I wrapped my life around.”
Rivers began his professional career in 2009 playing for the Seattle Mariners team in the Arizona Rookie League and went on to play for four more Mariners affiliates: the Everett AquaSox (Class A Short Season), the Clinton LumberKings (Class A), the High Desert Mavericks (Class A Advanced) and the Jackson Generals (Double-A).
In arguably his best season, Rivers batted .297 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI in 128 games with the High Desert Mavericks in 2013.
Rivers’ one season with the Generals was in 2014 and it was his last in affiliated ball. In 2015, he joined the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League and he split 2016 - his final season - between the New Britain Bees and the York Revolution.
After the move to the Revolution midway through last season, Rivers began to have the feeling that it would be his last.
“It all came from me,” he said about how he made his decision. “I knew coming into last year I was going to give it all I had. I went down to York and I decided if I was not signed with an affiliated team, it would be time to hang it up. No offers came up and I knew it was just time to move on.”
There were multiple factors other than not playing affiliated ball that played into his decision to retire, including a big life event.
“It wasn’t the easiest decision, but a lot of it came down to the fact that I have a big fall coming up. I’m getting married, so that was a big factor,” Rivers said. “I played eight seasons of [affiliated] and independent baseball and when you’re 28-29 years old, you’re on the other side of your prime and getting a little old for the game. You know when it’s coming. It was a life decision. I wanted to move on and start a new chapter of my life.”
Baseball has been a part of him for a majority of his life, but in his first summer away from the game in a long time, Rivers is enjoying himself.
“It was definitely a tough call but I haven’t had a day where I regretted the decision,” he said. “I went out every day and gave it my all. I laid it all out on the line and played a lot longer than I expected to play.
“I’m actually really enjoying my life now. I’m going away for Memorial Day, which I haven’t done in who knows how long. I’m looking forward to being a normal person over the summer.
“I’m loving it so far. I’ve been able to do stuff: planning weekend trips, seeing friends. My second family was whoever was on my team. It’s good to be back with my first family.”
Part of why he has been able to transition so easily out of the baseball lifestyle is because he quickly found a new job, which brought him back home to Bristol. Rivers is now a motion graphics controller at ESPN and he attributes his job with filling the hole left by leaving baseball.
“I started in mid-January. It was a quick transition. I retired in November and I was hired in January,” he said. “It made it a little easier because I wasn’t sitting around thinking about it.”
Rivers is now back in his hometown and around his family, but has not visited another family of his.
Since retiring, Rivers has not been back to see his former team, Bristol Eastern, but he foresees getting over to see the Lancers soon.
“When I first got back, I wanted to take a step away and let my mind go and step away from the game,” Rivers said. “But eventually I will get down there and see Coach G [Mike Giovinazzo]. He’s done a lot for my career. It’ll be nice to see him, since he’s close to being done, and help out all I can for the team.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @K_baum30