Davidson grad joins Intimidators

Always big supporters of their son, Lee and Julie Kayne were regulars at Davidson College home games when Zach Kayne played baseball there from 2006 to 2009.

When Zach was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the June 2009 draft and assigned to its Rookie League affiliate in Great Falls, Mont., the Kaynes' travel plans to see Zach play nearly came to a halt.

Since early May, however, the Kaynes are on the road again. Zach was promoted to the White Sox's Class A South Atlantic League farm team, and the Kaynes have been to every Kannapolis Intimidators homestand since.

As for the home team, the Intimidators are proud to have another player they can call a local product.

Though Kayne's goal is to play for the White Sox one day, he admits to being a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan. He grew up in Roswell, Ga., about a 40-minute drive from the Braves' home fields, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, then Turner Field, where the Kaynes held season tickets.

Kayne remembers trying as a youth to emulate Braves' shortstop Rafael Furcal, who, like him, was a middle infielder. Kayne said he was in attendance when Atlanta won the 1996 World Series with a Game 6 victory over Cleveland.

Kayne played in the nationally renowned East Cobb youth baseball league near Atlanta and grew into travel and showcase ball, which is where Davidson's coaches first scouted him. He admitted he had never heard of Davidson College before it recruited him.

An outstanding high school student academically, Kayne sought a college with a strong academic reputation. He also considered Dartmouth, Columbia and Georgetown before settling on Davidson.

"When we saw him, he did some things defensively we liked," Davidson head coach Dick Cooke said. "He ran pretty well. He wasn't real physical. The jury was still out on what kind of hitter he would be, just because he didn't have a huge body of work."

Over four collegiate seasons, Kayne batted .323 and finished sixth on Davidson's career doubles list with 48. By his sophomore season, he was a full-time starter. He was named the Wildcats' MVP for the 2008 season.

Kayne started attracting Major League scouts' attention during his junior season, but he told them his priority was to graduate before playing pro ball. During his senior year, Kayne said, he heard from nearly every Major League team. The White Sox selected him in the 22nd round, making him the 19th Wildcats player drafted since 1966.

In his first season, at Great Falls, the switch-hitting Kayne batted .266 with 28 runs scored. An injury to his right wrist - his throwing hand - limited his action to 54 games.

This spring, the White Sox kept Kayne in extended spring training. He was assigned to Kannapolis (at the low Class A level) on May 1.

Returning to the region where he played the previous four years has allowed Kayne to reconnect with former teammates and classmates from Davidson, including Brett Shore. Kayne had been Davidson's shortstop his senior year. his double-play partner at second base was fellow senior Shore, who played high school ball at South Rowan.

Said Kayne: "It's cool. It's weird (my teammates) are not playing anymore and I'm still playing. It's cool they get to come and see me play."

So far, Kayne has struggled offensively in Class A. He had no hits in two games he played as an emergency backup infielder with high Class A Winston-Salem, and he's hitting .167 in 16 games with the Intimidators.

He's not ready to give up on his big league dream, though. If he made it, he would be only the second Davidson product since 1948 to do so.

"I want to play as long as I can," Kayne said. "I will do everything I can to make it in baseball, and if I can't, I have my (economics) degree to fall back on."