Brendan Katin is on the verge of making Nashville Sounds history.
The 28-year-old is just 24 home runs and 47 RBIs away from setting the career records in each for the Triple-A franchise.
While it is a great accomplishment, Katin realizes he is close to breaking the records because of what he hasn’t been able to do — make the jump to Nashville’s parent club, the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Obviously, it is cool. It just means I have been here too long,” Katin said laughing. “It is kind one of those bittersweet deals: you break it but you have to be here four years to do it.”
Katin begins his seventh minor league season when the Sounds host New Orleans, the Florida Marlins Triple-A affiliate, at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Greer Stadium in the season opener for both teams. Katin, a 6-foot-1, 223-pound outfielder, was drafted in the 23rd round by the Brewers in 2005.
The native of Fort Meyers, Fla., went to the University of Miami and spent his first two seasons of professional baseball bouncing round. He split time in 2005 between Rookie League and Low-A. The next season he started at Advanced-A and finished at Double-A affiliate Huntsville (Ala.). In 2007, he spent the entire year in Huntsville and belted 24 home runs and knocked in 94 RBIs — both career bests at the time.
Despite a then career-high 163 strikeouts and just a .258 batting average, Katin was promoted to Nashville in 2008.
With the Sounds, he has hit 69 home runs and driven in 240 runs, trailing only Chad Hermansen (1998-2002). But he has battled inconsistency during those seasons. In 2009, for example, when he was named a Pacific Coast League Midseason All-Star and racked up 92 RBIs, he also struck out 164 times, just two off the Sounds’ single-season record.
“When he is hot, he can carry a club. When he is cold, he is just as cold as ice,” Sounds manager Don Money said. “Some guys it just takes a little bit longer to get to the big leagues and some guys don’t make it at all.”
Katin thought he showed he belonged at the next level last year when he improved his average to .286 — his best mark since 2006 — hit a career-best 26 home runs, knocked in 76 runs and struck out just 91 times. A knee injury limited him to just 94 games.
Plus, making it tougher for Katin to break through is the fact that All-Stars and Brewers outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart have been in his way.
“I thought I was close last year, but obviously I didn’t get the call up. Hopefully if I do what I did last year somebody will notice, whether it is with Milwaukee or another team,” Katin said. “It is definitely frustrating but I just have to control what I can control.”
Katin’s at-bats, however, probably will be limited, at least early on. His right knee required surgery after he tried to avoid a tag at first base, landed awkwardly and buckled his knee. He said his meniscus “ended up flipping over and sitting where my ACL was.”
After months of rehabilitation, Katin said his knee “has its days” still, with stiffness and arthritis flaring up.
“I have to learn how to deal with. It is not going to get any better,” he said. “It is just managing the pain.”
Money, who enters his third year as the Sounds’ manager and 14th with the Brewers’ organization, said Katin won’t be an everyday starter. He’ll get most of his opportunities off the bench and at the designated hitter position when the Sounds play an American League team.
A better part of a decade into his professional baseball career, this isn’t what Katin expected. But he also knows it could be worse.
“I would have hoped to be in the big leagues before this,” Katin said. “But I can’t complain. Fortunately for me, the Brewers’ Triple-A is in Nashville. I could have been stuck in a lot of other places. It hasn’t been too bad. Obviously the big leagues would have been better. But so far I have had a lot of fun. I can’t really complain.”