Georgia Tech's Kyle Wren has a maturity uncommon to most freshmen. He leads the ACC with a .477 batting average, using a combination of fatherly advice and his natural speed. On Monday, he was named ACC player of the week.
"I didn't see myself doing this well to start my career," Wren said. "My goal is to hit over .300, steal bases and score. But I'm fine with it. Hopefully we can kept it going against Georgia."
The Yellow Jackets (17-4) will take on the Bulldogs (9-11) at 7 on Tuesday night in their first meeting this season.
Wren has been around baseball all his life; his father, Frank, is the Braves' general manager. The elder Wren has always been careful about overexposing his two sons -- Colby, Kyle's twin, plays first base for the Jackets -- to the game. Kyle and Colby didn't grow up in clubhouses. They didn't learn the game from the pros in Florida or Baltimore, Frank Wren's previous work stops. They occasionally met players, with Kyle Wren gravitating to two with the funkiest swings in the game: bat-waggling Gary Sheffield and Adam LaRoche, who likes to point the bat straight up in the air.
Yet Kyle Wren didn't pattern his swing after either player. He's more like Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, a good-hitting grinder. That doesn't mean he didn't listen to the others. Sheffield told him about the importance of enjoying the game and working hard, without letting the game "eat you alive." LaRoche discussed baseball nuances and their importance.
It's the same advice that Frank Wren has shared with his sons.
"It's a long stretch, [a] lot of baseball to be played," the baseball executive said. "You can't get too high when you're playing great, can't get too low when you're struggling. It can humble you very quickly. Keep an even keel, do the same things and play hard."
Frank Wren won't make the trip to Athens. He said it's much tougher watching his kids than his team. When Kyle or Colby seek advice, he focuses on the positive and the need to stay patient. Kyle Wren said his father is never judgmental.
Frank Wren has stressed that Kyle take advantage of his speed. Kyle has eight stolen bases in 11 attempts this season, with nine extra-base hits. Kyle plays center field for the Jackets, same as his father did in the minor leagues. He has 35 putouts and a perfect fielding percentage.
"You can save the game defensively whereas you can win the game offensively," Kyle Wren said. "I try to do my best in the outfield; I think that translates into my hitting."
An at-bat during Sunday's 11-4 win over N.C. State illustrated what Wren has learned and put into practice as Tech's lead-off hitter. N.C. State's pitcher started Wren with a fastball outside for strike one. The pitcher came back with a curveball inside for strike two. After missing with another curveball, the Wolfpack player tried another fastball outside. Wren, a left-hander, sent a line drive down the third-base line and used his speed to leg out a triple. His next hit was a line drive inside the first-base bag.
"That's what makes him hard to defend," Tech coach Danny Hall said. "He can go the other way to the opposite field or pull the ball if he has to. He makes people cover the whole field to try and get him out."
Kyle Wren said at-bats like the one bringing him a triple he enjoys the most. He's always been a line-drive hitter with a little bit of pop and a good eye. He had a career batting average of .455 at Landmark Christian School before joining Tech.
It's been more difficult for the 5-foot-9, 158-pound Wren to hit college home runs because of torque changes to metal bats. Tech's coaches have instructed him to drop his hands in his batting stance, making it easier for him to hit ground balls. Wren has been comfortable with the change.
The results show it. In addition to leading the ACC in batting average, Wren tops the conference in hits (41). He has 12 multi-hit games and has reached base safely in all 21 games.
While the latest technique was handed down by his coaches, the patience comes from his father.
"He was the core foundation," Kyle Wren said. "He's helped us throughout."
Georgia Tech vs. Georgia
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Foley Field
Starting pitchers: Georgia Tech's Matt Grimes (3-1, 4.84 ERA) vs. Georgia's Chase Hawkins (0-1, 6.48).
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