June 2008: The Yankees chose Kyle in the 7th round, out of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, California. He signed in July for a bonus of $500,000, bypassing a scholarship to the University of California.
Kyle is becoming fluent in Spanish so he can communicate better with the Latin America pitchers. He purchased the Rosetta Stone software.
Higashioka's work ethic and attention to even the smallest details have allowed him to become an organizational favorite among team officials and coaches.
April 8, 2017: Higashioka received the phone call that he has been waiting nine Minor League seasons to get. Notified of Gary Sanchez's right biceps injury in that night's Yankees game, Higashioka hurriedly packed his bags and piled into a car with his wife, Alise, making the 6 1/2-hour drive toward Camden Yards and his big league dream.
"It didn't really sink in. To be honest, it feels pretty normal," Higashioka said. "The clubhouse is the same. It's a lot of guys I know here, so maybe once we get on the field and the game starts it'll be a little more surreal. But as of right now, it feels like just another day."
Higashioka, 26, was added to the Yankees' 40-man roster this past November after batting .276 with 21 homers and 81 RBIs in 102 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, setting career highs in runs (55), hits (102), doubles (24), homers, RBIs and walks (38). (Bryan Hoch - MLB.com)
Dec 23, 2019: A member of the Yankees organization for more than a decade, Kyle is entering the 2020 season with a strong opportunity to make his first big league Opening Day roster.
Q&A WITH MLB
The 29-year-old catcher joined MLB.com for a Q&A:
- You’re from Huntington Beach, Calif. What was a typical holiday like in your house growing up?
Growing up, we would usually go to the East Coast to visit with my mom's parents and then my cousins and aunts and uncles on my mom's side, so we were usually in Camp Hill, Pa. If we were lucky, it'd be a white Christmas, which was cool. And then sometimes we'd take like a little trip after that.
Did you have any special traditions? Something you would look forward to every year?
Once we started having Christmas just at our house in my high school years, my mom would make the same Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas. It's our family's collective favorite meal, so that was cool. My mom makes an excellent Thanksgiving dinner. She does it the old-fashioned way in the oven, with the turkey that takes like eight hours to cook. Everything tastes amazing, so we always love that.
If you think back to when you were a kid, is there one Christmas that sticks out? Maybe something you were really hoping for under the tree?
One of the things I would always look forward to was that I would get a new a baseball bat. Usually those things only lasted like a year at a time, because they'd get dented or cracked or whatever. So usually Christmas time was when you would get your new bat for the year, which is always pretty exciting.
Which bats were you partial to? Do you remember any in particular that were your favorite?
As a kid, I think it was whatever was the one that was on sale. I had a Nike bat. I had a couple of Easton bats that were pretty good. I think Easton was the best metal bat company, in my opinion. When I was growing up, the Connexion and then the Stealth; I mean, the Stealth was like a rocket launcher.
What about favorite gifts that you were able to give?
As a kid, it was tough. I was working with limited funds; I didn't have a job yet. I just remember when we gave my brother his first PlayStation or PS2, and giving my parents a new bike. We'd hide it in the neighbors' garage until Christmas Eve and then go over there and sneak it back into our garage and then put it out in the morning. That was always fun.
Did you ever peek at the presents early?
I would always look for them, but I never found them. I don't know what the deal was. My parents must have been good at hiding the gifts. I'd always look for them in all the closets and stuff, and I could never find any of them. Good for them.
Sell me on a California Christmas. What's good about a California Christmas?
In California, the good thing is you can still play baseball on Christmas. The weather is usually still warm, so I think I remember there being some sort of baseball tournament growing up over the Christmas holidays.
Favorite Christmas movie?
Jingle All the Way. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the guy is a comedian in himself. Everything is so much funnier in his heavy Austrian accent. The way he says, "Turbo Man," or when he's yelling at Ted to "put that cookie down, now!"
Favorite Christmas song?
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. I always used to think it was funny as a kid.
How do you look back on the 2019 season, now that you’ve had a little time to absorb it?
Obviously as a team, we were disappointed to not get to the World Series. Our goal is always to win it. But you know, there were a lot of positives from that year, especially with us using so many different players from the 40-man roster. That just showed the depth in the organization. We know that we're going to be primed to compete, even more so this year. We're looking forward to it.
Now that Austin Romine has joined the Tigers, are you going in thinking that the backup catcher job is yours? And how are you preparing for that?
I'm preparing like I would every other year, which is that I'm fighting for a job. I'm not going to believe anything until I see my name on the roster come Opening Day. I don't know, so I don't want to be complacent or assume anything until it's actually done. I'm just going to go into camp fighting for a job.
What did you like about what you were able to show this past year? What positives do you take from it personally?
I had another good year receiving, and also at the plate. I had a good couple of weeks there where Romine and I were kind of switching off every day. I think I showed what I'm capable of. Now it's about just doing that consistently throughout the course of an entire season.
What are you looking forward to about having Gerrit Cole on your team?
We actually played together a little bit on the Angels' elite scout team in high school, so I'm looking forward to being back on his team.
What was he like in high school? What kind of teammate was he?
Great dude. I mean, I had a really good time with him. I think we played against each other once on some Orange County, North-South All-Star team. I hit a line drive up the middle and he was like, ‘Oh my God, you crushed that one!’ He’s always been a really good dude to me, and I'm looking forward to being his teammate again. (B Hoch - MLB.com - Dec 23, 2019)
Kyle committed to play for Team USA in the 2023 WBC.
- Jan 14, 2023: Kyle and the Yankees avoided arbitration agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.4265 million.
|Home:||Huntington Beach, CA||Team:||YANKEES|
|Birth City:||Huntington Beach, CA|
|Draft:||Yankees #7 - 2008 - Out of high school (CA)|
Higashioka has an uppercut in his righthanded stroke that helps provide good pull power. He has very good bat speed.
Kyle credits his 2016 hitting success to viewing several film sessions of elite hitters.
“I watched major league hitters and what they do, and I made some changes,’’ said Higashioka, who split time at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. “I leveled out my swing plane a little bit, and I hit off-speed pitches better than in the past.”
Kyle has solid hitting mechanics. His set up is quiet, showing little wasted movement.
“He has always been an excellent defender, and the bat is coming along this year,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said of the 26-year-old who advanced to Scranton in May 2016. “There is no doubt he will play in the big leagues.”
Higashioka has very good strike zone knowledge and will work a pitcher deep into the count, accepting a walk or getting a pitch he can nail.
He hardly ever strikes out.
July 1, 2018 : A big leaguer's first career hit is always the toughest one to get under his belt, but for Kyle Higashioka, it was well worth the wait. After battling through 22 hitless at-bats, Higashioka recorded his first hit in style on Sunday night, crushing an 89.1-mph cutter from left-hander David Price into the second deck in left field in the Yankees' 11-1 win over the Red Sox.
"My biggest concern tonight was making sure we get a win," Higashioka said. "Obviously I couldn't be happier that the hit came in a win over the Red Sox, and it was a home run."
The blast, which had an exit velocity of 106.4 mph and traveled a Statcast-projected 401 feet, also accounted for another milestone. It was the Yankees' 135th home run of the season, breaking the franchise record for most homers prior to the All-Star break.
Higashioka is the first Yankee to homer for his first big league hit since Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge went back-to-back in their first career plate appearances on Aug. 13, 2016. And Higashioka is the first Bomber to do so against the Red Sox since Andy Phillips in 2004. (Mandy Bell -MLB.com)
- July 4, 2018: Three career hits. Three career home runs. In the fourth inning of the Yankees' 6-2 victory over the Braves at Yankee Stadium, Kyle completed a feat that only one other player in franchise history has accomplished.
Higashioka turned on a 2-0 fastball from right-hander Julio Teheran and launched it 372 feet, according to Statcast, to left field, giving the Yankees a 5-0 lead.
The catcher joins Alfonso Soriano (1999-2000) as the only two Bronx Bombers to homer for each of their first three career hits. Higashioka is just the ninth player since 1920 to accomplish the feat and first to do so since Trevor Story started his career with four in 2016, according to STATS.
"I couldn't have imagined it like that," Higashioka said. "But I'm just glad that they're contributing to wins. That's the name of the game here, so I'm just happy that that's the case." (Bell - mlb.com)
Sept 16, 2020: Kyle hammered three home runs in 4 at-bats in a lopsided victory over Toronto at Yankee Stadium.
Higashioka capped the carnage with a two-run shot in the seventh, putting the Yanks up by a dozen. That blast went to right field, completing a circuit after his first two had traveled out to center field and left field. He also narrowly missed another homer on a deep fourth-inning flyout.
“He’s got that kind of power,” Boone said. “I thought he did a great job being aggressive with some fastballs. He got a few pitches to do damage with tonight, and he didn’t miss them. It’s a night he’ll remember forever.” (Hoch - mlb.com)
- As of the start of the 2022 season, Kyle had a career batting average of .183 with 20 home runs and 56 RBI in 387 at-bats.
- Kyle is an excellent defensive receiver. He receives the ball smoothly and is quiet back there. He blocks balls in the dirt very well.
- Higashioka has a fairly strong, very accurate arm, posting pop times in the 1.95 to 2.1-second range. His release is very quick.
He is a smart catcher who works real well with his pitching staff. He earns their trust and builds a solid rapport with them very quickly.
Kyle's take-charge attitude has an impact on the game. He is like having an extra coach on the field. He has a lot of intangibles.
As Corey Kluber put the finishing touches on his May 19, 2021 no-hitter, Kyle was in charge of guiding the two-time Cy Young winner toward an achievement that instantly resides on par with any in his career.
“He was unreal back there,” Kluber said of Higashioka. “The way that he goes about calling the game, the way we see things -- it kind of makes sense to each other. He was on it. He just had a really good feel of what they were trying to do and called a great game.” Higashioka usually exhibits a blend of detached confidence and California cool, but as Kluber’s bid inched deeper into the Texas evening, he described increasing levels of anxiety. Higashioka described having nearly hyperventilated on the bench between innings eight and nine.
Then, squatting behind home plate, Higashioka flashed his digits for an 0-1 cutter to Willie Calhoun. The ball was chopped to shortstop Gleyber Torres, who tossed on to first baseman Luke Voit, and Higashioka could exhale. A few joyous seconds passed before Kyle thudded into Kluber’s chest, embraced and hoisted off the infield turf by the 6-foot-4, 215-pound hurler.
“It was almost like what you would imagine the feeling is after winning the World Series,” Higashioka said. “It was this crazy, euphoric feeling. I mean, he lifted me off the ground pretty hard. I could tell he was pumped.”
With Higashioka steering pitch selection, Kluber leaned heavily upon his curveball, snapping off 31 hooks. In Higashioka’s opinion, the curve was Kluber’s best of the year, but Kyle discovered early in the gem that he couldn’t make a wrong choice. (Hoch - mlb.com - 5/19/2021)
- Kyle is not your normal slow-footed catcher. He runs the bases well and intelligently.
- July 2010: Higashioka was on the D.L. for a week or two.
July 21-Aug 3, 2011: Kyle was on the D.L.
August 20-29, 2011: Higashioka was on the D.L. again.
May 1-end of 2013 season: Kyle was on the 60-day D.L. with a sore right elbow.
June 16, 2016: Higashioka was on the DL with a left thumb injury.
May 15-June 7, 2017: Kyle was on the DL.
June 22-August 18, 2017: Higashioka was on the DL.
August 19-Sept. 8, 2017: Kyle went right back on the DL.
Aug 6-Sept 1, 2020: Kyle was on the IL with right oblique strain.
July 16-27, 2021: Kyle was on the IL.
- May 22-24, 2022: Kye was on the IL.