Caden Kirker had a breakout season with the Thomas Worthington baseball team last year.
A middle infielder and pitcher, Kirker batted .377 with eight doubles, nine RBI and 13 runs scored and earned first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and honorable mention all-district honors despite missing the end of the season with a broken wrist.
He endured a 12-week recovery from that injury, which forced him to miss most of his summer travel season with the Cangelosi Black Sox.
A 2020 Thomas graduate, Kirker was itching to get back on the field for the Cardinals this spring, but his senior season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"Me personally, I was chasing the all-state team (this year)," Kirker said. "I think if I finished my junior season, I could have gotten an all-district spot and I was going for all-state this year. That was ultimately my goal. I wanted to break the (program) record for pitching wins, I wanted to break the record for batting average, I wanted to hit over .400 this season because I knew I could last year."
According to coach Chris Olson, Kirker, an Otterbein commit, still left his mark on the program despite not having a chance to play as a senior.
"Caden is a very passionate player," said Olson, whose team finished 6-20 overall and 2-12 in the OCC-Cardinal last season. "Baseball is extremely important to him. He invested a lot of time to improve his game in his four years and it has allowed him an opportunity to play at the next level at Otterbein University -- a goal he has been striving for since he came into the program as a freshman. I'm very excited for him to continue to get to play the game he loves."
Kirker, who usually splits time between second base and shortstop but also has played third base, prides himself on his versatility. He's confident that skill, coupled with his work ethic, will help him find his way in the collegiate ranks.
"Being versatile has always been really important for me, because if I'm going to go to college and I want to chase a spot, I have to be able to do everything. I can't be a one-sided player," he said. "Something one of my coaches told me is, if I want to be successful, I have to be able to do whatever someone needs me to do. Throughout practice, I've been working on as many things as possible to be able to do anything within the game to the best of my ability."
Kirker, who had only 13 at-bats with Thomas as a sophomore, knows he'll have a challenge ahead of him to carve out a role with Otterbein next spring.
"We have a pretty big roster over there. There are about 50 guys, which is pretty abnormal," he said. "For a freshman, there's a lot of guys that they don't even take to games because they have so many people on the squad. But for me, I want to be there around the team as much as possible."
Right now, Kirker is happy to have the opportunity to be back on the field with the Black Sox this summer.
"I'm pretty excited," he said. "I think my team is very ready to go. All of us are extremely hungry (after) missing our senior season."