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Karaviotis’ pro baseball journey brings him back to Kane County

Maui High grad says signing is ‘a huge relief’ with so many minor leaguers still unsigned

Mark Karaviotis bats for the Visalia Rawhide, then a Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2019. Karaviotis, a graduate of Maui High School, signed with the Kane County (Ill.) Cougars of the American Association last week. Ken Weisenberger photo

Mark Karaviotis got the call he had been waiting 10 months for last week, and it came from a familiar place.

The Maui High School graduate was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks in late May after he had climbed to the Double-A level of the organization. His release came amongst the mass purge of minor leaguers throughout professional baseball due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, he signed with the Kane County (Ill.) Cougars of the American Association, returning to one of the stops he had early in his journey within the D-Backs farm system.

“Oh, it’s a huge relief,” Karaviotis said via phone Tuesday from Scottsdale, Ariz., where he lives. “Obviously with what’s happened this last year is far bigger than baseball, but just the baseball topic alone, it’s been a grind for thousands of minor league ballplayers, major league ballplayers, high school ballplayers, Little League ballplayers — Little League all the way to the big leagues.

“So, it’s definitely a blessing to sign that dotted line and have some clarity that, you know, I get to put on a professional baseball uniform again. Not only a professional baseball uniform, but some familiar threads.”

Mark Karaviotis spent 57 games in the 2017 season with Kane County, which was then a short-season Class A affiliate of the Diamondbacks. Kane County Cougars / Donnell Collins photo

Karaviotis spent 57 games in the 2017 season with Kane County, which was then a short-season Class A affiliate of the Diamondbacks. He hit .307 with two home runs and 21 RBIs.

He moved to Visalia of the California League in late 2017, and he was a Cal League All-Star in 2019 before moving to Double-A Jackson (Tenn.) later that season.

He’s a .284 career hitter in the minors since being drafted in the 19th round out of the University of Oregon in 2016.

A month ago, the Cougars were accepted into the American Association, which was formerly an independent league but recently signed to be a Major League Baseball Partner League. That means the Cougars will be under the MLB umbrella although not affiliated with any specific organization.

“It’s a beautiful area in the Midwest, and definitely just blessed, and looking forward to being able to compete in the next couple months,” Karaviotis said. “There are still 600 to 700 free agents right now who lost jobs due to COVID who still haven’t signed.”

Karaviotis said that the level of play in the Cougars’ new league will be a step up for the former Midwest League team he played for four years ago.

“These independent leagues now are going to be absolutely loaded at a competition level these leagues have never seen,” he said. “I was just looking at our team and the rest of the American Association throughout — they’re stacked with Double-A, Triple-A guys. It’s going to feel like you’re in affiliated baseball with the competition day to day.

“It’s going to be a grind and that’s what I’m really excited about, just going out there and having the opportunity to reprove myself, hopefully get back into affiliated baseball in no time.”

The bottom line for the 25-year-old is that he has new baseball life. He has been coaching and doing private baseball lessons over the time away from the game and plans a trip home to Maui this month before he reports to camp in May.

“The dream is still there,” he said. “I’m not sure where the road is ending, but the journey continues, so pretty excited about that.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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