Kai Achim Gronauer (Flutschi)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 196 lb.
Gronauer debuted in Bundesliga when he was only 16, hitting .371/.437/.452 for the 2003 Solingen Alligators and tying for 4th in the northern division with 19 RBI. In the 2004 World Junior Championship, he batted .385/.429/.538 for an 0-4 German squad, getting 5 of the team's 16 hits and both of its extra-base hits (two doubles). He threw out 3 of 5 would-be base-stealers as well. He was named to the tournament's All-Star team as the top catcher.
In Bundesliga in 2004, Gronauer hit .347/.420/.417 and threw out 60% of attempted base-stealers. The next year, his batting line was .382/.457/.491 and he led the Northern division in runs (35) and steals (15), while only getting caught running three times. In the playoffs, he batted .423/.492/.500 in 52 AB. In the 2005 European Championship, Gronauer hit .243/.324/.300 in nine games for the German national team.
Gronauer produced at a .403/.471/.583 clip as a 19-year-old in Bundesliga in 2006. He batted .384/.520/.589 in 2007 and led the Bundesliga North in steals (20) and walks (20, tied for the lead) while placing second in runs (33) and fifth in OPS. He threw out half of attempted basestealers. In the 2007 European Cup, Gronauer hit .400/.400/.550 for Solingen, which went 1-4. He hit a solid .296/.400/.630 with 8 RBI in eight games in the 2007 European Championship as Germany finished 4th. In the 2007 Baseball World Cup, he had a 2-run homer against Vladimir Banos in a surprisingly close game against Cuba and doubled home both of Germany's runs against Australia while hitting cleanup. Overall, he hit .167/.231/.375 in the World Cup and was second on the team in slugging behind Jens Heymer. His 4 RBI not only led the team but were one-third on their total for the event. Through 2007, Gronauer's .992 fielding percentage was the best in German national team history, .004 ahead of anybody else.
Gronauer hit .250/.280/.417 in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament as Germany's cleanup batter; 4 of his 6 hits were doubles and he tied for the team lead with 2 RBI. He also threw out 5 of 11 attempted base-stealers, including four in a game against Australia. He scored Germany's only run in a 2-1, 10-inning loss to Canada, doubling against Jamie Richmond in the 6th and scoring on a Jendrick Speer two-bagger in a near-upset.
Gronauer signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets in April of 2008 and was expected to begin his minor league career that season. It was a major blow to the Solingen Alligators, who bid farewell to Gronauer at a game shortly after his signing. He remained with the team for several more weeks than originally expected due to visa issues. Gronauer has hit .433/.536/.642 in his 17 games in Bundesliga in 2008 (through June 8); he was among the Northern division leaders in runs (28, tied for first), triples (2, tied for second), steals (11, tied for third), hits (29, tied for second), OBP (2nd), slugging (4th) and OPS (2nd). He had also won Bundesliga's first Player of the Week Award in 2008. He also caught a perfect game by Enorbel Márquez on May 24. He finished second in the northern Bundesliga-1 in OPS, a distant 217 points behind Chris Beck.
Gronauer made his belated US debut in 2008 with the GCL Mets. He was a backup catcher in their June 25 win over the GCL Cardinals and did not bat. He got his first start a couple days later and had a rough game, going 0 for 4 with a passed ball and an error. Eight days later, Gronauer went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI in his third game. After 9 games in the minors, he was hitting .444/.464/.481 with 8 RBI, but was only playing about twice a week despite his success. Gronauer finished his first minor league season with a .356/.408/.378 line in 16 games. He threw out 6 of 10 attempted base-stealers and drove in 10 runs. No player on the GCL Mets had a better OPS in more at-bats.
Gronauer opened 2009 with the Savannah Sand Gnats and hit .243/.294/.352 in 67 games while battling injuries. He threw out 37% of attempted base-stealers.
As a youth in Solingen, Germany, he played several sports, including soccer, tennis, swimming and handball. He was first exposed to baseball at age 10 or 11, when a friend took him to a practice game for a local team.
His parents don't fully understand the game or its terms. He promised to buy his mother Cornelia a ticket to see him play in America as soon as he plays in Citi Field, but she is scared of flying. His father Achim owns a pocket-knife factory and hopes to come to the States soon to see his son play for the Sand-Gnats.
- Defunct IBAF site
- German baseball site
- Bundesliga Statistics
- Interview with the NY Daily News, via the IBAF website