AVON - For Alex Kaminsky, it's simple.
He loves baseball.
Once a member of the Cleveland Indians organization, the right-handed pitcher finds himself in the Frontier League, about an hour and a half from where he used to overwhelm high school hitters as a star for the Fostoria Redmen.
"I've been doing this since I was five," Kaminsky said. "It's kind of hard to just wake up and one day be all 'Oh, I don't want to play anymore.'
"What I've learned is, it's the other aspects of baseball that makes it fun," he said. "The friendships, the fans ... I like to interact with the fans. The kids come down and ask for autographs. I love that stuff."
Now 25, Kaminsky is in his first season with the Lake Erie Crushers. He spent last year with the Frontier League's Gateway Grizzles, but was traded in the offseason.
"Their manager called me up and said, 'Hey, we've got this kid from Fostoria, Ohio, and he's expressed interest in coming up here,'" said Crushers manager Jeff Isom, who like Kaminsky is in his first season in Avon. "I see, 'Yeah, this kid won 10 games last year, of course I'm going to have interest.'"
In fact, Kaminsky flourished with the Grizzles, finishing 10-5 with a 3.74 earned run average. He made 18 starts, and struck out 93 batters.
So why did Kaminsky want to return to Ohio?
"The first appeal was the manager, Jeff Isom," Kaminsky said. "I've heard a lot of good things about him.
"I played here [at Avon's All Pro Freight Stadium] in college, so I was familiar with the mound here, the dimensions, that was pretty much what appealed to me. Last year's team, they did pretty well, they were just short of making the playoffs. I felt like if I can come over here and make the pitching staff a little bit deeper, that way we can make the playoffs this year."
Kaminsky talks more like a seasoned veteran than a 25-year-old. He was signed by the Indians out of Wright State in 2010, and got as high as double A Akron that season. He appeared in one game and pitched three scoreless innings for the Aeros.
After being released by the Tribe prior to the 2011 season, Kaminsky has bounced around independent leagues, making stops in Shreveport-Bossier, El Paso, and Fargo-Moorehead in 2011 before settling in Southern Illinois with Gateway in 2012. Including his three starts with the Crushers this year, Kaminsky is 25-14 in his career with a 4.14 earned run average.
"The main thing is, he can throw three pitches for strikes," Crushers pitching coach Chris Mongiardo said. "He can throw his changeup for a strike, he can throw his little breaking ball for a strike, and he works everything off his fastball. I can see why he won 10 games last year in a tough park."
"All he wants to do is have a winning team," Isom said. "That means a lot to me. He's not only committed about himself and getting better, but he wants the team to be good as well. He fits in with the plans of things we want to get done here, and that is to make the playoffs and win a championship. So he's in the middle of that. He's come in here, he's thrown the ball very well for us. He works very hard; he's constantly working on his game trying to get better."
So far this season, Kaminski has made three starts for the Crushers. He's 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
Kaminsky isn't the only Crusher with area ties. Ricardo Lizcano, a Heidelberg graduate who spent last season in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, is hitting .231 with two RBIs.