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Photoby Debbie Kroll
Doug Kroll, batting, has found a groove at the collegiate level after a prolonged absence from baseball.

For a guy who didn't swing a bat for two years and later decided to quit the game for awhile, Doug Kroll is certainly finding success on the baseball diamond.

Kroll is coming off two junior college All-American seasons, including one as the national player of the year, and earned a full-ride scholarship to play for perennial college baseball power Oklahoma State.

If he keeps up his recent progression in the game, you just might eventually see him in the major leagues.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Kroll has come a long way since playing at Bingham High School, where he earned honorable mention All-State honors in the Deseret News in 2002.

After being lightly recruited, he went to Salt Lake Community College, where he sat out the season after contracting mononucleosis.

Then he decided to go on an LDS mission (Ohio) and, after returning, he enrolled at Southern Nevada in the fall of 2006. However, it wasn't a good fit for him and he wasn't enjoying it, so he decided to give up competitive baseball.

Fortunately, the Southern Nevada coach saw Kroll's potential and urged him to keep playing. He contacted Iowa Western CC, which after seeing him play, offered him a scholarship.

In his very first at-bat the next spring for Iowa Western, Kroll hit a home run and just kept on hitting. After batting .492 with 18 home runs, Kroll was named the NJCAA player of the year as well as the Rawlings Big Stick Award winner.

So how did Kroll transform into a such a big hitter in such a short time?

He said his mission helped him to learn to work hard, and his maturity helped.

"In baseball, you have to work really hard and get a lot of repetitions in," he said. "I always felt I had the ability. As I matured, I came to understand the game more. My mission helped a lot and gave me a better balanced life."

This past season, Kroll was selected as a first-team All-American for the second straight year after hitting 19 home runs and batting .416. His reputation as the national player of the year meant that he was fed a steady diet of change-ups and curveballs, but he still put up outstanding numbers.

Kroll had several offers, including one from South Carolina and one from hometown University of Utah, but he settled on Oklahoma State.

"It was hard to say no to Utah," he said. "I've always been a Ute fan, but it seemed like there would be better competition at Oklahoma State and they'd have a better chance of getting to the College World Series. You can't get much better competition than the Big 12."

His coach at Iowa Western, Marc Rardin, loved having Kroll the past two years for more than his bat.

"Doug is a great individual," Rardin said. "He's lived quite a bit of a life already with his religion and being out on his own. He loved baseball, got frustrated and gave it up. We gave him a chance. Now, he has a chance to sign a professional contract and live his dream."

That's the ultimate goal for Kroll, to play professionally. However, he knows as a 23-year-old with one or two years of college left, that his chances of being drafted are slim, no matter how good he is.

"It's kind of a hindrance," Kroll says of his age. "The scouts will be interested in me and say, 'So why are you so old?' I tell them that I served a mission and they are very respectful. But they say it's hard to draft a kid that's 23."

For now, Kroll is off to play in North Carolina in the Coastal Plain League, a summer collegiate baseball league that features 14 teams in three states, with a brief break later this month to play in the JC all-star game in Tennessee.

Then it's off to Oklahoma State and, perhaps beyond that, professional baseball.

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