Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blast From the Past: Kurt Ainsworth

Kurt Ainsworth was the Giants first round draft pick in 1999 after solid junior season pitching for LSU.  He worked his way up through the Giants minor league system as a member of AFW(Ainsworth, Foppert, Williams) the pitching triumvirate that was supposed to lead the way out of the Barry Bonds era.  He made his MLB debut in 2001 appearing in just 2 games.

He spent most of 2002 in Fresno but appeared in 6 games for the Giants including 4 starts(man, I don't remember that!  2002 was the year they went to the World Series).  He compiled a 1-2 record with a 2.10 ERA over 25.2 IP.  He started 2003 in the Giants rotation and pitched well, 5-4, 3.82, 66 IP, 26 BB, 48 K.  I don't recall if it was in 2002 or 2003, but he had one start in particular against the Dodgers that was a thing of beauty dominating them with great command of at least 5 different pitches.

About a third of the way into the 2003 season, the injuries started to set in.  Ainsworth had undergone TJ surgery in college and now had shoulder pain.  He was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the scapula, a rare injury.  He as later included in the trade to Baltimore for Sidney Ponson as Sabes had probably seen enough of the injury thing.  He later underwent a second TJ and his MLB playing career was done.

So, why am I writing about Kurt Ainsworth now, you may ask?  Well, I just happened to click on a video article over on BA(no subscription required) called Googe Hangout With Adam Dunn.  Right at the beginning the conversation mentioned Kurt Ainsworth and a baseball equipment company named Marucci that both Adam Dunn and Kurt are involved with.  Dunn mentioned that the products are designed by ballplayers for ballplayers.  I recalled Ricky's mom mentioning last year that Ryan Vogelsong was the owner of baseball equipment company. For some reason a light bulb went on in my head as I was watching the Dunn interview.  I Googled Kurt Ainsworth and found an SFGate article that explained it all.

Turns out, Kurt is a co-founder and Chairman of a bat company named after another co-founder named Joe Marucci who was the head athletic trainer at LSU.  There are 26 major league ballplayers, including Albert Pujols and Ryan Vogelsong, who are investors and together they own the majority of the company. I assume Adam Dunn is an investor too.  Remember when Pablo Sandoval hit 3 HR's in the World Series off Justin Verlander and Al Albuquerque?  He was using a Marucci bat!

In addition to manufacturing baseball equipment, Marucci also supports amateur baseball and sponsors several showcase and travel teams.  I sounds like the player investors interact with the prospects and get to know them.  Adam Dunn was able to discuss several of them by name off the top of his head in the interview.

Although Kurt Ainsworth's baseball playing career came to a premature and sad end, he has obviously come out in great shape finding a way to give back to the game in multiple ways and earn a nice living for himself in the process.  Not that Albert Pujols needs any more ways of making money or Adam Dunn, for that matter, but it is gratifying to see a guy like Ryan Vogelsong find a way to extend his earning power beyond his playing career.

I just thought this was a fascinating story and am so happy to see the names of current and former Giants figuring prominently into it.


  1. Was it possible that he could have had a longer career with today's medicine?

    The one undervalued element in baseball and all sports is sports medical knowledge. Tomorrow's game between the Niners and Green Bay could be decided by which team manages better with the freezing weather on how it impacts the human body. It is also useful in deicing which previously proven (no advanced stats required here, with former All Stars, MPVs or Cy Youngs, or top 5 or top 10 finishers in these categories), but injured players attempting to come back, to sign. If you know something other teams don't, that gives you a competitive advantage.

    1. I doubt that things have advanced enough to have made any difference in Ainsworth's career. I think some players just have more fragility in their bodies than other for reasons that are still unknown. I believe Kurt was one of those. Sad, because as Anon said below, Ainsworth could pitch.

    2. You're right...some are more fragile than others. Wilson - he's got what, 3 surgeries and he was quick to bounce back too.

      To add to my early comment, it was not hard to sign Frank Thomas. It was just a question of whether he was healthy again. The same with Colon, if I recall correctly. In both cases, one doesn't really need any stats, just good doctors...or maybe just luck.

  2. I think of the AFW trio Kurt had the best shot at a great career. Foppert had good stuff but was raw, Williams was always a headcase but Ainsworth could pitch. If I recall, his curve was a thing of beauty. Good to hear he is doing well. And yes, it is ironic that of the three Williams is still chugging along.

    1. Had high hopes for that trio. Good to see Kurt Ainsworth doing well. I've been happy to see Jerome Williams revive his MLB career by pitching a couple of years in Korea if I remember correctly. Thinking back to that trio makes me realize how amazing and special it is to have young talented homegrown pitching like Cain, Timmy, Madbum, and even J Sanchez pitching together at the same time. It probably took good drafting, development, and good fortune too.


  3. I remember the 2002 season. It was a competition between Ryan Jensen and Kurt Ainsworth for the #5 spot and Jensen had pitched really well early on in the season. I think he didn't allow a run in his first 17 innings or something to that effect.Unfortunately Jensen did not do well later into the season as his stuff wasn't as good as Ainsworth. I always felt that Ainsworth should have been the starter that year and perhaps his career would have seen a different trajectory.

  4. I just totally confused the AFW with the 2001-2 college draftees: Hennesey, Lowry, Correia, More talented guys with a good chunk of bad luck with a decent slice of MLB time. Puts the Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarber into more perspective.

    Of course, Cain is also pick numero uno from 2002.

  5. I really liked Ainsworth a lot, as well as Foppert and Williams. Would have changed things a lot of the three had delivered on their potential, could have had a pennant under Bonds most probably. But that's life, eh?

    I remember being mad that the Giants sent Ainsworth back down to AAA and kept Jensen around instead. I thought it was time to take him out for a drive and see what he got. Part of the reason I was glad to see Dusty go, decisions like that. Glad Kurt seems to have landed on his feet in his post-MLB player career. Good for him.

    I wonder how Vogelsong became an investor, is this a relatively new company? He didn't really make any big money until 2012.