Steven Kwan relying on steady approach in 2nd season with Guardians

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Steven Kwan is among several chess players on the Cleveland Guardians. He went over some moves with Bo Naylor and then watched Naylor take on Hunter Gaddis.

Kwan has been playing for a couple of years, both in person and on a chess app. Asked who is the best player on the team, Kwan said he heard Josh Bell is pretty good.

“But I would say, I think you have to assume that you’re the best,” he continued.

That’s the mentality that took Kwan from a fifth-round pick in the 2018 amateur draft out of Oregon State to a surprising rookie season with Cleveland a year ago. The outfielder hit .298 with 52 RBIs, 19 steals and a .373 on-base percentage, helping the Guardians to the AL Central title.

This spring training is a much different feeling for the 25-year-old Kwan, who counted Ichiro Suzuki as one of his favorite players while growing up in Northern California.

“Not feeling like you’re walking on pins and needles is definitely a much better place to be,” he said.

If Kwan is feeling any more pressure after breaking out last season, it’s hard to tell. He said he looks at every year in the majors as a challenge.

“I make it a big point to never stay too high or too low. Just stay kind right in the middle, stay neutral,” he said. “I think that’s going to be really important because I think once that I accept that oh, I’m this big leaguer, I’ve made it already, blah, blah, blah, then things start getting too comfortable and then things start slipping.”

That mindset helped Kwan stay focused after he got off to a historic start last year. He reached base 18 times in his first five games, the most for a player in that span since 1901. He also went 116 pitches before he swung and missed, the most of any player to start a career since at least 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

After struggling in May, batting just .173 in 21 games, Kwan hit .341 in June, .314 in July, .296 in August and .325 in September, showing impressive consistency for a rookie. He scored 89 runs in 147 games and finished with more walks (62) than strikeouts (60).

“He’s got a lot of ways to impact us winning,” manager Terry Francona said. “Whether it’s his legs, his defense, occasional home run, he’s got a lot of ways to help us win.”

Whether it’s Kwan or any of Cleveland’s young players that had a hand in the team’s 2022 division title, Francona doesn’t buy the idea that duplicating its success last year will be any more difficult than what it accomplished last season.

“I think if you put pressure on yourself, it can become harder,” he said. “Try to tell our guys all the time, man, don’t chase numbers. … If you’re a good player, show up and try to do something every day to help us win. You look up at the end of the year, you’ll be where you’re supposed to be.”

In many ways, Kwan’s first big league season looked a lot like what he accomplished in college and in the minors. He batted .328 and scored 96 runs in 156 games for Oregon State. After the 2020 minor league season was canceled because of COVID-19, he hit .328 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs over two minor league stops in 2021.

He can hit, and he doesn’t see any reason why that would change anytime soon.

“I think just understanding where I come from, kind of my mindset last year, and continuing it forward,” he said.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
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CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.