In 2014, Hiura graduated from Valencia High School in California, where he was Scholar-Athlete of the year
"It wasn’t until my senior year where I started to kind of make a name for myself,” Hiura said. “Coming into freshman year at UC Irvine, I viewed myself just like everyone else. I wasn’t expecting to have a spot given to me based on what I did in high school or an automatic job given to me. I just wanted to stay focused and earn that spot and the respect of the coaches and my teammates.”
Keston is the son of Kirk and Janice Hiura. He is half Japanese and half Chinese. (Orange County Register - June 9, 2017)
Hiura was off to the Univ. of California-Irvine.
June 2017: The Brewers chose Hiura in the first round (9th overall), out of UC-Irvine. And Keston signed for $4 million, over half-a-million under the slot of $4,570,000, via scout Wynn Pelzer.
Regardless of the competition, Keston has always hit. He hit .500 in his senior season at Valencia High School, won college baseball's batting title with a .442 average this past season at UC Irvine and has continued to rake in the early stages of his professional debut.
Hiura has hit well in the Rookie-level Arizona League and then made an immediate impact with Class A Wisconsin. "As highly as our scouts talked about him, he's lived up to all that and then some," Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said. "He's gone about things the right way, too, busting it down the line, playing within himself and putting up big numbers in the at-bats he's had so far."
Overall, Hiura has a hit in 15 of the 16 games he's played, including 12 extra-base hits and nine multihit efforts. He's collected 19 RBIs and is boasting an impressive .424/.487/.803 slash line. While collecting hits at a rapid pace is certainly enjoyable, Hiura's main focus is on the process, the individual battle between the pitcher and hitter.
"I enjoy the competition," Hiura said. "Not every pitcher is the same, but I kind of treat them the same. They may have different stuff or different types of velocity, but in the end, it's just the pitcher versus the hitter, so you have to do whatever it takes to beat the pitcher. I like that. I like that challenge and competition." (Boor - mlb.com - 7/20/2017)
After the 2016 season Hiura played for the United States collegiate national team.
In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Keston as the 4th-best prospect in the Brewers organization. But he moved up to the top—the #1 prospect in the Brewers farm system—before 2019 spring training.
Keston could have gone anywhere on the final night before his first Spring Training in 2018. He chose the Starting 9 batting cages in Santa Clarita, Calif., for one final session with the coach he's known since he was 9 years old.
They hit, naturally. Hiura always loved to hit, and the coach, Sean Thompson, was happy to put a few more batting practice fastballs on his right arm. Mostly, they talked.
"You're sitting there watching a kid that you've worked with forever. You're hoping you touched his life," Thompson said. "And here he's leaving for his first Spring Training."
Thompson, 50, played pro ball himself, as an infielder for parts of two Minor League seasons in the Giants system. He went into instruction after that and had crossed paths with Ryan Braun and countless other Southern California kids before Kirk Hiura brought his son Keston for lessons.
Keston Hiura's interests at the time were split between the baseball field and the basketball court, where he was shorter than some of the other kids but made up for it with effort.
"They once asked me to write a letter about him for the Gatorade Games, and I said this little pudgy kid—I knew he was going to get mad at me for saying that—would roll in and hit, and it would be about basketball," Thompson said. "He was really into basketball. I was like, 'Hey man, you're pretty good. You might think about this baseball thing.'"
As time passed, Thompson watched the player's hand-eye coordination improve and his thought process sharpen. Hiura took quickly to the short, inside-out swing he employs so naturally today, and Thompson found himself repeatedly surprised by Hiura's acumen for pitch recognition.
By the time Hiura was 11, Thompson said, he had trouble throwing a pitch past the kid. "I tried to teach him to play chess instead of checkers, to give him a way of thought at the plate," Thompson said. "Every pitch is a performance. He's got such a terrific mind, and he's so mature. He does things a little bit different."
The era of launch angle hitting is a different way of thinking about hitting. Starting 9 does have the HitTrax system to gather data, but Thompson and Hiura focused much more on the mental task at hand. They've never watched video, Hiura said. It's an old school approach.
"He was always a coach who taught you more about the mental side of the game," said Hiura, who is the Brewers' No. 1 prospect and No. 56 overall according to MLB Pipeline. "I think a lot of parents, when they hear a coach talking about those kinds of things to a young kid, they don't always buy into it. They think, 'He's just a kid. Just let him play.' But my parents let us do our thing. I think I was able to understand the game a little differently than most kids my age."
Thompson saw less of Hiura in the 2017 offseason, which is natural for a player now in the pro ranks. Hiura did some hitting at UC-Irvine with Albert Pujols and Nolan Arenado, but on a handful of occasions, including on that final night of the offseason, teacher and pupil met in the cage at Starting 9.
"You could sense a little bit of nervous in him," Thompson said. "You try to listen, you try to answer as many questions for them as you can and then you have to let them go experience things for themselves. That's what we do." (McCalvy - mlb.com - 3/8/2018)
Ballplayers trying to avoid Tommy John surgery often are advised to try a platelet-enriched plasma injection, otherwise known as PRP.
Figuring he had nothing to lose after suffering a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, Keston Hiura had a PRP injection before his junior year at UC Irvine in 2017. To further protect his elbow, he abandoned the outfield that season and served solely as the Anteaters’ DH.
Much to the delight of all involved, he had an MRI after signing for $4 million that showed his partially torn UCL had healed.
“I viewed it as a no-brainer for me,” Hiura said of the PRP injection. “It wasn’t going to make it worse, so that was the best decision for me at that point. I was just happy to play the whole year as the DH and help the team.
“There’s a lot of question about whether it works or not. For me, it did. It’s something I’d recommend for people in similar positions. It helped me avoid surgery.”
July 2018: Hiura represented the Brewers in the All-Star Futures game.
Keston walked out of his hotel bathroom late May 13, 2019, and saw he had missed a pair of calls from Rick Sweet, his manager at Triple-A San Antonio. “Answer your phone,” Sweet texted him.
Hiura couldn’t believe the words Sweet said once he did. He was headed to the Majors. “I was kind of speechless and at a loss for words,” Hiura said less than four hours before his debut, a 6-1 Brewers victory over the Phillies. “It was amazing. I didn’t get much sleep.”
Hiura packed his bags, caught a few hours of sleep and headed to the airport, flying from New Orleans to Atlanta, then on to Philadelphia where he joined the Brewers for May 14th’s game at Citizens Bank Park.
The 22-year-old wasted no time getting his first big league hit, coming to bat in the second after Yasmani Grandal had cleared the bases with a three-run homer. Hiura laced a single off Jerad Eickhoff—the ball literally drilled the pitcher in his right hip—for the first of what the Brewers hope will be many, many hits by the second baseman.
“It is nice to get it out [of the way] with the first at-bat,” Hiura said. “I wasn’t pressing to get a hit or anything. I was more scared that the ball was going to ricochet and I would get thrown out at first base. My feet felt so heavy running to first base. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so slow right now.’ Incredible feeling getting to first base.”
Hiura made his debut less than two years after being selected by Milwaukee with the No. 9 overall selection in the 2017 draft. Many players his age might have been overwhelmed by the surroundings, but Hiura appeared calm and collected as he stepped into the batter’s box.
“It wasn’t nerves; it was more just soaking in the moment,” Hiura said. “The lights are brighter, grass is greener, dirt is nicer; everything just stands out to you. I was really just soaking it all in. It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m quite sure it will sometime soon.”
“That’s how he hits; very calm,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s always together, doesn’t look out of control, ever. That’s how he plays and that’s what you’re going to see in him as a player. I thought he handled the first day really well.”
Hiura walked in his second at-bat, flied out in his third plate appearance and hit a single to left in his final trip to the plate. He finished the night 2-for-3, becoming only the fourth Brewers player to reach base three times in his debut, the first since 1976.
“Looking around you see all the fans, all the players,” Hiura said. “Players you watch on TV are saying hi to you at second base, congratulating you. Those were all incredible moments of tonight.”
“It’s a special time,” said general manager David Stearns, who arrived in Philadelphia and made it to the ballpark in time for the first pitch. “It’s been a crazy 24 hours for Keston and his family. It’s fun to see. It reminds you of the emotions that are associated with the game.”
Hiura’s parents, Kirk and Janice, flew in from Valencia, Calif., to watch their son make his debut. Hiura’s girlfriend, Jaclyn, and long-time hitting coach Sean Thompson, also made the trip. His sister, Lindsey, was unable to be at the game, as she had a final to take as she finishes up her freshman year at Long Beach State.
“I’m so glad that they’re here,” Hiura said. “They’ve been by my side supporting me my whole life; I wouldn’t want to spend this night with anybody else.” (Feinsand - mlb.com - 5/14/2019)
"It’s a nickname I’ve had since my junior year of high school. To be completely honest, I’m not sure how I got that nickname,” Hiura told the Milwaukee-based clothier Routine Baseball for a blog post during Spring Training. “It was probably from one of my friends messing around, and it had a nice tone to it, so I decided to keep it. It’s been my username for all of my social media accounts, and I find it funny when random people come up to me and call me KestDaddy or ask me to sign a ball saying KestDaddy.”