Baseball player known for play as well as Vines

Senior pitcher and first baseman Kyle Conkle waits on the throw to first base during a game against LeMoyne Owen College Feb. 11. Conkle has a 4.62 ERA on the season.

by Staff Writer Mike Ezekiel

Many UNA baseball fans know right-handed pitcher and first baseman Kyle Conkle for his on-the-field ability, but more than 117,000 more people know him for his six-second videos.

Conkle is not only a college athlete, but also Vine-famous.

When Conkle is not busy with the responsibilities of being a student-athlete, he spends his time producing six-second videos proclaiming his faith.

“It’s been a cool process,” Conkle said. “I started making the short, six-second clips and tagging some people that already had a lot of followers and they re-vined me and the followers started coming in.

“I’m not saying that all of the Vines I’ve ever done were perfect by any means, but they glorify Christ. It’s been really neat to interact with people who ask for help on their spiritual walk. If it helps one person, it was worth it.”

The senior from Fort Payne has been a member of the UNA baseball team for two years, since transferring from Darton State Community College in 2014.

“I didn’t know where I was going to go initially,” Conkle said. “The reason I wanted to come to UNA was because of the feel it gave me. It was close to home and seeing my family was important to me.”

Conkle also said Florence was a significant factor in his decision to play for the Lions.

“It has all of the accessibility of a big town with the small-town feel, and that’s right up my alley,” he said. “I like the environment that UNA gives off and that you’re not just a number, but you have relationships with instructors and coaches.”

Last season, Conkle was named to the First-team All-Gulf South Conference team after hitting .328, two home runs and collecting 37 RBIs.

Conkle has a 4.62 ERA in 37 innings pitched this season as the third starter in the rotation. Conkle had a 19 and two-thirds scoreless inning streak before it was broken in a loss to the University of Alabama-Huntsville March 29.

“(Conkle) was shutting teams down for a couple of weekends,” said head coach Mike Keehn. “The significance of the stat is that he was able to get us wins and shut teams down during that stretch.”

Conkle earned GSC Player of the Week March 17 for his one-hit, complete-game shutout against Christian Brothers University.

Conkle not only aims to encourage thousands of people through social media, but to also personally encourage his teammates in the locker room.

“Me and Kyle grew up together and played recreation league together,” said second baseman Kyle Crabtree. “Kyle is definitely a person to surround yourself with. He’s a great leader for our baseball team.

“Things haven’t been going as good as he’d like them to be position player-wise and hitting-wise, but it’s a testament to him that he brings a positive attitude to the field every day and I’m proud of him for that.”

Keehn said he has also taken notice of Conkle’s positive energy both on and off the field.

“Even if he’s not in the lineup, he still has a positive attitude,” he said. “He’s always going to do the right thing on the field and off the field, which makes my life easier. The way he presents himself as a whole makes him a quality young man.”

As a student-athlete, Conkle is pressed for time between schoolwork and striking out hitters, but he said he has his priorities in line.

“My spiritual life is my number one priority,” he said. “Christ is the most important thing in my life and if I had to pick, everything else is out the window.”