Standing 6-foot-5, there’s no question that Kevin Siegrist is one of the biggest Buffalo Sabres fans you’ll ever meet. Siegrist cuts an even more imposing figure when he stands atop a 10-inch high pitcher’s mound. You see, besides being a Sabres junkie, the 24-year-old Siegrist is also a relief pitcher for the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Born in Buffalo and raised in Lewiston, the lanky lefty opened a lot of eyes after making his major league debut with the Cardinals on June 6 of last season against Arizona. A starter for most of his minor league career, Siegrist struck out four Diamondbacks over 1.2 innings of work in his debut and never looked back. He finished the season with a 3-1 record in 45 relief appearances, posting 50 strikeouts and a minuscule 0.45 ERA – having allowed just two runs all season. Siegrist also made nine postseason appearances for the Cardinals, as they advanced to the World Series before losing in six games to the Boston Red Sox.
Siegrist has made a rapid ascent through the Cardinals organization since being drafted in the 41st round of the 2008 MLB Draft, after attending Palm Beach Community College as a walk-on. He’s made stops at every level of the Cards minor league system, including a combined 17 games with the Batavia Muckdogs in 2009 and 2010 when they served as St. Louis’ Class A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League.
But Siegrist’s sole focus isn’t all on baseball. Despite moving to Florida in 2004 to attend high school, he’s never lost the passion for his hometown hockey team. Siegrist rarely misses a Sabres game on TV, and he is usually very active on Twitter (@KevinSiegrist) throughout games with his opinions and observations.
With Cardinals spring training just over two months away, Siegrist recently took some time out of his offseason to talk with Sabres.com about his favorite NHL team.
How long have you been a Sabres fan, and what are your earliest memories of the team?
I have been a Sabres fan my whole life, or at least for as long as I can remember. The earliest memory that really sticks with me is Derek Plante’s Game 7 overtime goal against Ottawa in 1997. And when the Sabres had games against the Maple Leafs, you can't really forget any of the Rob Ray/Tie Domi fights.
Do you have a favorite all-time Sabres moment?
It has to be Game 5 against the New York Rangers in the 2007 playoffs when Chris Drury scored in the last second of the game to tie it up, and then they went on to win it in overtime. Plus, Rick Jeanneret makes any overtime time win a classic. It was just an awesome game.
Who was your favorite player?
Dominik Hasek. There really is no explanation needed for this; if you watched him play you know why. Six Vezina Trophies and some of the best seasons and playoff performances, especially in 1998-99 when he was just unreal. Some of the saves he was able to pull off just left you in awe. In my opinion he is the best goalie ever.
How would you describe yourself as a Sabres fan?
I would say I am a pretty dedicated fan. I hardly ever miss a game. I just buy the Center Ice package every season and I am good to go. Since I live in south Florida, when they come down to play the Panthers I make sure I get to those games. We were in the playoffs in October when the NHL season started, so for most of the games I only got a chance to watch the first period on my iPad in the clubhouse before our game started. Then I would just check after our game for the final score.
Were you a hockey player while growing up in Lewiston?
No, I never played ice hockey as a kid. I always wanted to but I had to choose between baseball, which I was already pretty good at, and hockey. I think I made the right decision. I would like to think I would have been a pretty good hockey player, but I think any athlete would say the same about trying to play a different sport.
Are there a lot of hockey fans in the Cardinals clubhouse, or are you in the minority? Any particular guys that you talk hockey with?
There are probably a handful of guys in the clubhouse that are into hockey. As far as talking hockey, our bullpen coach (Blaise Ilsley) and bullpen catcher (Jamie Pogue) are pretty big hockey guys so I would talk with them. Chris Carpenter used to play when he was younger so he follows too. I also think Randy Choate would just ask me hockey questions to see if I knew the answers.
How often do you attend Blues games in St. Louis, or any other cities on the road?
I actually have not been to see a Blues game. Every time they were at home we were playing, or when we had a day off they were on the road so it didn't really work out. They have a really good team and I hear that the atmosphere in that arena is pretty good so I definitely want to check it out. I have been to a couple of games on the road. I watched the Sabres play the Penguins in Pittsburgh in October, and I also saw the Senators and Ducks in Anaheim when we were out in Los Angeles.
When was the last Sabres game you attended in Buffalo?
I would say the last time I went to game in Buffalo was in the late 90's. It has been to way too long, I need to get back.