Keith Ginter didn’t know what to expect when he was part of the minor league team that left Jackson, Mississippi for Round Rock in 2000. But when he got to Texas, his expectations were more than fulfilled.
Ginter — who was named league MVP after leading the Express to a Texas League Championship in their first year in Texas — was the fourth inductee into the Express Hall of Fame. He joins former teammates Morgan Ensberg and Roy Oswalt, and manager Jackie Moore.
“I had plenty of memories in the big leagues, but my experience in Round Rock was unbelievable,” Ginter said. “This is about as close as you can get to being in the big leagues without actually being there.
“This is a huge thing to come back to Round Rock where it all started and be honored like this in front of everybody and former teammates. I’ve been looking forward to it.”
In his MVP season in 2000, the second baseman hit .333 with 26 home runs, 92 RBIs, and scored 108 runs. Round Rock beat the Wichita Wranglers in the championship series, clinching the game at Dell Diamond.
While the team was celebrating the title on the field, Moore informed Ginter and Ensberg they would be joining the Astros in the big leagues.
“I had both of them out there and we were celebrating and they didn’t know they were going to the big leagues,” Moore said. “That’s been their dream since they were little kids and I had the opportunity to tell them. You could not have written a better script.”
Ginter made 13 appendices for the Astros over the course of three seasons and hit just one home run with three RBIs. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002 and hit 34 homers with a .257 average over three seasons in Milwaukee.
He spent one mediocre season in Oakland with the A’s in 2005 and bounced around minor league teams in independent leagues until he retired in 2010. He’s currently a sports agent for MVP Sports in California.
“When we got here, we sat in the stands and saw the stadium,” Ginter said. “We knew we had a great plan but didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Then it was standing room only and it was like that all year long. It was just a great experience. It lived up to my expectations and it’s still doing it.”
Dell Diamond was the talk of baseball when it opened in 2000. Moore said he had players that never made it to the big leagues consider their time in Round Rock as big league experience because of the stadium. The Express set Double-A and Texas League attendance records for five straight years from 2000-2005.
During spring training ahead of the 2000 season, Ginter was one of five players robbed at gunpoint in a Florida hotel room where they were tied up and had cash stolen. Both men were eventually captured and all the possessions returned.
In 10 minors league seasons, Ginter hit 100 home runs. The usual home run trot became second nature and even when he hit a grounder, sometimes Moore would need to remind him to hustle.
“He learned how to play the game right,” Moore said. “Home runs are great and everything, but take care of the little things in baseball and the big things will take care of themselves. Keith learned how to make himself a complete player.”