Obituary: Kim Batiste (1968-2020)

RIP to Kim Batiste, an infielder whose clutch hit in the 1993 NL Championship Series helped the Phillies on their way to the World Series. He died in a Louisiana hospital on October 7, 2020, from complications after emergency surgery, according to his family. Batiste, who lived in Prairieville, was 52 years old and had been battling kidney failure for many years. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies (1991-94) and San Francisco Giants (1996).

Kimothy Emil Batiste was born in New Orleans on March 15, 1968. He attended St. Amant High School in St. Amant and was a starter on the basketball team as well as a shortstop and pitcher on the baseball team. He was selected as the Gatorade Circle of Champions High School Baseball Player of the Year in Louisiana. The Phillies took Batiste in the Third Round of the 1987 Amateur Draft. The 19-year-old failed to hit .200 with the low-A Utica Blue Sox in 1987, but the team still saw him as a potential shortstop of the future after a good performance in the Florida Instructional League. He obviously needed to grow up a little, “but he’s got all the tools,” said George Culver, one of the Phillies FIL instructors.

Source: Philadelphia Daily News, March 10, 1992.

Bastiste improved his offense with Spartanburg in 1988, with a .249 average, and he also showed a little power (6 home runs) and a little speed (16 stolen bases). He also struck out 101 times and committed 60 errors at shortstop. However, he was praised by Phillies instructors for making a strong effort to improve. When Batiste moved to Clearwater in 1989, he worked extensively with minor-league instructor Jim Fregosi to improve his defense. Batiste was also getting pushed from behind, as another promising shortstop, Mickey Morandini, was making his way through the low minors and was nipping at Batiste’s heels. When the two were on the Clearwater roster at the same time, it was Batiste who moved to third base to make way for Morandini.

Batiste was promoted to AA in 1990 and spent the season with the Reading Phillies of the Eastern League. He slashed .276/.296/.358 and stole 28 bases. He had a 21-game hitting streak in July and August, too. He was also making small improvements defensively, with a .936 fielding percentage at shortstop that was his best mark to that point. It was the best overall season yet for the man known by his teammates as “Batman” or “Batty.” It was a nickname that he picked up in Utica, and it stuck with him.

“I love that name and I hope to live up to it,” he said. “I like to swing the bat, and I don’t like to walk. I feel that I can hit the ball hard and get a couple of home runs.”

Batiste added that the biggest confidence boost he was given was to be invited to the spring training camp with the big-league team. “It did more for me than you’ll ever know,” he said of being around established players like Von Hayes, Tom Herr and Lenny Dykstra. “It made me realize that I’m not that far away, and if I work at it I could be there with them.”

In fact, it just took a successful season at AAA to get there. Batiste moved up to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 1991 and hit .292 for the Red Barons. He hit just 1 home run, but he had 25 doubles and 18 stolen bases. He started off slow but caught fire in August, with a club record 44 hits in the month for a .321 batting average. The Phillies brought him to the majors in September. His MLB debut came in Houston on September 8, 1991, and Batiste’s parents were able to be there to watch the game. Batiste, the starting shortstop, went 1-for-3 with an intentional walk and a single in his first at-bat off Ryan Bowen.

“The reward I wanted was to see the expression on my mother and father’s face when I got here,” he said. “With God’s help and them being the parents they were, they got me here today, pushing me to do right. I thank them for all that.”

After that first game, they got to give Batiste a hug and kiss and tell him they were proud. “That’s what counts, to hear your mother and father say they’re proud of you,” he added.

Batiste hit .222 in 10 games to finish off the ’91 season, and he committed just 1 error in the field. With Morandini having moved over to second base, he was thought to be the team’s next starting shortstop. He started 1992 as the starter and hit well in the first month. His first home run came in Chicago off the Cubs’ Frank Castillo on April 23. The batting average tailed off to .206 by the time he was demoted to AAA in mid-June.

By 1993, the team seemingly had moved on from Batiste. Juan Bell and a few veterans were tried at shortstop until rookie Kevin Stocker claimed the position. Dave Hollins took over at third base. Batiste, after a few early starts, was left to serve as a backup infielder and defensive replacement. Naturally, fate intervened, and he ended up playing in a career-high 79 games, as well as some memorable postseason moments.

Batiste had career bests in virtually every offensive category and slashed .282/.298/.436. He drove in 29 runs and hit 5 homers, to go with 7 doubles and his only career triple. His fielding improved to the point that he became Hollins’ regular defensive replacement at third base. When Hollins was injured for much of the second half of June, Batiste stepped in as a starter and hit .262 with a couple of home runs in that stretch. Though his chances to hit were few and far between, he made the most of them. In the month of August, he appeared in 13 games and had a total of 10 at-bats — with 6 hits. One of them was a grand slam that gave the Phillies a 9-5 win over the Mets and added another loss to Anthony Young’s 1-16 season.

Batiste played in 4 games in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, but the memorable one was Game One. The Phillies were leading 3-2 going into the ninth inning, and Batiste took over for Hollins at third base, as was customary. Bill Pecota walked to lead off the inning, and Mark Lemke hit a grounder to Batiste, who threw to second base for a double play. However, the throw was wild and went into right field, and Pecota made it to third base. He later scored the tying run, sending the game into extra innings.

“After that error, I definitely felt bad,” Batiste told Philadelphia Inquirer writer Jayson Stark. “I said, ‘What have I done now?’ There were so many things going through my mind.”

His teammates didn’t let him stay down. He said most of the team came up to him, told him not to worry about the error and that he’d have a chance to win the game for them. Ordinarily, that doesn’t happen in baseball, but in this game, John Kruk hit a 1-out double in the 10th inning to bring Batiste to the plate. He recalled walking up to the plate expecting boos from the Phillies fans, but they cheered him instead. On a 1-2 count, he slammed the ball into left field for a double, sending Kruk chugging home with the winning run and a 4-3 victory. It was a difficult six-game series, but that win put the Phillies on the path to capture the NL pennant.

As Kruk scored, Batiste’s teammates swarmed the infielder and carried him off the field on their shoulders.

Kim Batiste talks with reporters after signing with the Camden Riversharks. Source: Courier-News, February 1, 2000.

“We all felt so good for him, coming back after the error the way he did,” commented his teammate Milt Thompson. “I just looked over, and Danny Jackson was holding him up there, trying to carry him by himself. And I said, ‘I better give him a hand. He’s got to pitch in this series.'”

That ended up being Batiste’s only postseason at-bat in the NLCS. He played in three games in the World Series, which the Phillies lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, but he did not come to the plate.

Batiste had a similar year in 1994, where he filled in at third base and shortstop as needed. In 64 games, he batted .234. On July 31, he drew a walk against Braves’ reliever Mike Bielecki, and that was a noteworthy accomplishment. It had been more than a calendar year since his last base on balls — a span of 204 plate appearances.

“I’m just a free-swinging guy,” Batiste explained. “You know how a lot of guys have a zone? Well, my zone is: anything close.” Teammate Larry Anderson described Batiste’s “zone” as anything between third base and first base.

Due to Batiste’s struggles at the plate in 1994, the Phillies dropped him from their 40-man roster at the end of the season. He came into training camp in 1995 as a non-roster invitee. He reported along with the replacement players during the 1994-95 strike but refused to participate in any of the exhibition games. Batiste failed to make the team once the season started and returned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After struggling over the first month, the Phillies released him, and he signed a minor-league contract with the Baltimore Orioles. He spent the rest of the season playing in the Orioles minor-league system.

Batiste was claimed by the San Francisco Giants in the December 1995 Rule V Draft and made his final major-league appearances with them in 1996. He spent the season backing up shortstop Rich Aurilia and third baseman Matt Williams, as well as pinch hit. He was briefly demoted to the minors when his batting average dipped into the .150s, but he finished the year off with a .208 average and 3 home runs. His struggles could be partly attributed to a left knee injury he suffered early in the season. He opted to play through the pain rather than miss time with surgery. He was released at the end of the season.

In four seasons in the majors, Batiste had a slash line of .234/.250/.323, with 154 hits that included 23 doubles, 1 triple and 10 home runs. He had 64 RBIs and scored 59 runs.

Batiste was out of baseball in 1997 to let his torn knee ligaments heal, but he became a regular on baseball’s independent circuits starting in 1998. He played for a number of teams in the Northeast League, the Northern League and the Atlantic League, and he also appeared in a handful of games for the Chinatrust Whales of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 1999. He played well, frequently playing with and against some of his old teammates, and he even became a consistent double-digit home run hitter. Batiste’s last season was 2003 with the Atlantic City Surf.

Sometimes, the independent baseball world was a struggle. He was part of a Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds team that was forced to play an entire season on the road while its home stadium was being built. The team ran out of money, and he related stories of players sleeping in tents, being kicked out of hotels for lack of funds and scrounging for food. Not surprisingly, the team folded, and the stadium was never build. In spite of that experience, he continued to play into his mid-30s.

“I just like to play baseball,” he explained when asked about playing away from the major leagues. “If the game was in my backyard I’d play. I just love getting a chance to put on a uniform again.”

Kim Batiste is carried off the field by his teammates after a game-winning hit in Game One of the 1993 NLCS. Source: Philadelphia Phillies

For more information: Philadelphia Inquirer

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