“Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity,
To seize everything you ever wanted,
In one moment —
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?” — Eminem
If you don’t know Brandon Kintzler‘s entrance music, the lyrics are above. They have a deep meaning to a young man who wants to capture it. Ask him, and he might tell you what “it” is.
“I’ve actually researched [the lyrics], just to go back and read every meaning that [Eminem] talks about,” Kintzler said. “I don’t want to ever lose the meaning of it. I don’t want to wear it out, so when it does happen it gives you a quick reminder. When no one wants you, and you make your way back, you come back with a vengeance. That’s what I think means more to me.”
Earlier this month, Kintzler turned 33-years-old, and for those who don’t know him, the All-Star’s career definitely would seem like a sensationalized story of fiction, and probably not too dissimilar from one of those children’s books that is fictional kid’s fantasy that Brandon reads to his 22-month-old son Knox. On October 27th, Knox will turn 2-years-old at a time on the calendar that aligns with game three of the World Series, and hopefully Knox’s father is still working that day!
Kintzler is one of the rare 40th round picks (or later) to be named an All-Star. We could give you a few other names that were picked in rounds later than Kintzler in baseball history, and it is easy to do since the list is short: Names like Mike Piazza, Orlando Hudson, and Keith Hernandez. Their fraternity is small. Each player has a story. Most are beyond belief.
Kintzler has defied the odds for years. Being from Las Vegas, even the long odds can come in. He was just 2-years-old when he started riding BMX bikes and when he was 6, Brandon won the national championship. At four-years-old, he got interviewed by Colin Cowherd for this BMX jump 29 years ago in 1988:
He retired from BMX racing at eight-years-old to play baseball which was clearly the right choice. Brandon Kintzler was drafted in the 40th round by the San Diego Padres and they released him on April 1st of 2006, and what seemed like an April Fool’s joke, was not. Unemployed with a labrum that needed surgery, the outlook was bleak. For money, Kintzler would work at a Coldstone Creamery in Las Vegas for his sister and her husband.
“My sister and her husband gave me a job working at the Cold Stone [Creamery] store,’’ Kintzler said. “Gives you a strong wrist, scooping out that ice cream.’’
When his surgically repaired labrum healed, Kintzler got his practice in during breaks at Coldstone where he would play catch in the parking lot behind the store with the man that taught him about baseball. Brandon’s father, Rick Kintzler, would work with him 3-days a week to get him ready to throw in front of scouts.
Brandon finally got a job back in baseball but it was in Independent baseball as all 30 Major League teams passed on Kintzler. With his best offer in-hand, Kintzler headed to Canada and the northern reaches of the Independent Northern League Winnipeg Goldeyes. Kintzler would pitch when needed, and during the off-season he would sell game tickets since his Work Visa wouldn’t allow him to work anywhere else, but the team let him use the basement at the stadium to give pitching and hitting lessons for some extra money. In his second season in Canada, Brandon met his future wife Melissa there.
In the off-season, Kintzler would go back to his childhood home in Las Vegas. While there, he ran into the great Greg Maddux who made an impact on Kintzler’s future and transition from a 4-seam pitcher to a sinkerballer. Maddux’s advice was to use that pitch and move around on the pitching rubber to give the pitch a different look.
“He said it was simple,’’ Kintzler said. “He threw the same pitch. He just lined up in a different place on the rubber.’’
Kintzler landed a job at the Wynn Casino as a limo driver shuffling around high rollers and celebrities.
“I drove the Escalade that would follow the Rolls-Royce that went to airport to pick up the celebrities and the big hitters,’’ Kintzler said. “Usually, the stars would take the Rolls and I’d get the rest of the entourage. Garth Brooks, he didn’t want the Rolls; he’d take the Escalade.’’
The man with the odd jobs would return to Winnipeg for the 2008 season as a starting pitcher. Kintzler was traded to the St. Paul Saints, now in the American Association.
“My shoulder was healthy and I felt there was a better chance to get signed out of St. Paul,’’ Kintzler said. “My goal when I got there in 2009 was actually to be a starting pitcher in the league’s All-Star Game.’’
Kintzler was an All-Star for the St. Paul Saints and Tim Collinsworth who was a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers was at that All-Star game and they signed him to a Minor League deal on July 24, 2009. The Brewers assigned him to the Double-A Huntsville, Alabama Stars. Kintzler started the 2010 season with Huntsville, but was promoted to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds that June.
In September of 2010, at the age-of-26, Brandon Kintzler made his debut as a September call-up for his cup of coffee. His first appearance with the Milwaukee Brewers was 1 1/3 innings of 1-hit baseball with 2 strikeouts. The former 40th round draft pick would have to show he could repeat that success from his debut. Kintzler would struggle in his next 2 appearances giving up 5 runs over 1 2/3 innings. He then had 3 appearances with no runs and righted his ship.
For several years Kintzler was back and forth between the Minors and Majors, too many times to count. The Brewers cut Kintzler loose on October 5th of 2015, and he signed on December 14, 2015 as a Free Agent with the Minnesota Twins. The many years of the ups and downs in a baseball life, and finally Kintzler was consistent and impressing his coaches. In 2016, it was a breakout year for Kintzler as he became the primary closer and had 17 saves. In 2017, Kintzler was named to the All-Star team with the Twins and traded about two weeks later to the Nationals.
The kid from Las Vegas wears the number every Blackjack dealer uses to take your money when that ace is up and that face card is below it. There were times when Kintzler wasn’t “Jack” and now he’s like the “King” or the perfect 10 pairing up with aces by the names of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez.
Kintzler has defied odds, but there were many non-believers. Some people close to him encouraged him to give up on baseball many years ago. Luckily, he didn’t listen to them. Now he is living the dream in a city where they build monuments and statues for the greatest dreamers in American history.