By Brian Benesch
In the span of five years, former UA ballplayer Scott Kingery went from unheralded college prospect to the talk of the MLB.
A graduate of Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee, Kingery inked a six-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal is worth $24 million but has a maximum value of $65 million if the club picks up his options through the 2026 season.
With the deal, the 23-year-old becomes just the second drafted player in league history to sign a multiyear contract before ever stepping foot in the majors. Houston’s Jon Singleton is the only other player who has signed such a contract without any big-league experience.
Count former Mountain Pointe head coach Brandon Buck among those impressed with Kingery’s new contract.
“It’s amazing. He’s the second player to ever do it and it’s the largest (contract). I think that lets you know how big of a deal that is,” says Buck, who coached Kingery during his time with the Pride. “I’ve been on cloud nine. I’m just so happy for him.”
While the coach was impressed with Kingery’s deal, he was certainly not surprised to see the gritty infielder rewarded. Buck said he knew the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder was special from a young age.
The former coach recalled a specific story about Kingery’s situational awareness in Ahwatukee Little League. He then remarked to his wife that he couldn’t wait to coach that player one day.
Buck got that chance during Kingery’s time at Mountain Pointe, which culminated with a state title in 2011.
But after a storied high school career, Kingery surprisingly received zero offers from Division-I schools. He had to settle for a walk-on opportunity with the UA. That single opportunity from the Wildcats was all the Phoenix native needed.
“I remember talking to several schools about him and almost all of them just said he wasn’t big enough. Me and my staff were dumbfounded,” Buck says.
“And in the opening game of his freshman year at Arizona, he was their leadoff hitter. That night we got a text message from a college coach saying, well, I guess we screwed up on that one,” he chuckled in satisfaction.
During his three seasons with the Wildcats, Kingery hit six homers and 80 RBIs. He led the team with 93 hits and a .392 batting average as a junior.
To classify Kingery’s rise to the major league level as rapid would be an understatement. From 2015-2016, he floated between single-A and double-A ball, putting up respectable, but far from eye-popping numbers at the plate.
Kingery then played in the Arizona Fall League less than two years ago as he continued to develop. While he didn’t light the league on fire by any means, his time in Scottsdale was a catalyst for his incredible 2017 season in the minors.
The natural second basemen started the year with double-A Reading before he got the call to join triple-A Lehigh Valley in June. Kingery responded by posting a .294 batting average, with 8 home runs and 21 RBIs. His instant success at the high level certainly caught the attention of the Phillies’ front office.
In 55 plate appearances, Kingery hit .418 during Phillies’ Spring Training schedule. It was enough for general manager Matt Klentak to reward the prospect with an unprecedented contract.
The news of Kingery’s deal delighted Buck, who works as a leadership coach at Initiative One in Boise, Idaho.
“He started for three years for me at shortstop and was a stud,” he says. “He had so much potential and so much ability. He’s one of those rare athletes who took advantage of that. The fact that a lot of people would always say he’s small really fed him to work even harder.”
That motivation has propelled Kingery all the way to the major leagues. And with a young and talented roster already in place for the Phillies, the tentative plan calls for Kingery to play multiple positions in the field. Judging by his swift climb up baseball’s ranks, it would be foolish to think Kingery couldn’t handle this role.
“He truly believed he was good enough to play baseball at the collegiate level and beyond,” Buck maintains. “He just focused on the things he could control.”
So far this season with the Phillies, Kingery has been under control in the batter’s box; he’s hitting .211, as of April 26. What’s most impressive though, is the fact that the utility man has already played six positions in the field. He is proving his worth in the MLB with each passing day.
Buck reminisced about his time coaching the humble and driven Kingery, adamantly saying, “Regardless if it was baseball or not, he was going to be successful.”