Every Wednesday, Shannon Kelly will sit down with a coach's wife, a former Wolf Pack athlete or a woman in the Northern Nevada community to have a conversation over a glass of wine (or whatever drink they choose). This week, she sat down with Kellie Gimenez (formerly Burton), wife of former Nevada baseball and MLB player, Chris Gimenez, who is now a coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization. They talked about her volleyball career, living in more than 50 cities during Chris' baseball journey, the best and worst parts of being a baseball wife and some of Kellie's hobbies, among other topics.
First time meeting Chris
Kellie grew up in Northern Nevada and was a standout athlete at Galena High. As a senior, she was rated the 24th-best volleyball recruit in the nation by Volleyball Magazine and was named USA Today's player of the year in Nevada for basketball. She started her volleyball career at the University of Arizona before transferring to Nevada, where she met her future husband when he was a Wolf Pack baseball player.
“Apparently all of the baseball players used to come watch the volleyball games during their offseason," Kellie said. "They had nothing better to do, so they would come to the volleyball games and I guess I was Chris’ favorite. They gave away rally towels at the volleyball games, and the guys would write their favorite volleyball player on the towel and hold the sign up. I never saw any of this, but I guess he had a sign up that said, 'No one finer than niner.' I was number 9.
"We were at a friend’s house one night and one of the baseball players came up to me and said, 'You have to meet my friend Chris. He’s in love with you.' So they introduced me, and I could tell Chris was really nervous, and I said, 'Hi, I'm Kellie, nice to meet you,' and the only thing he could muster up to say is, 'No one finer than niner” with this dumb smile on his face. I just turned around and walked away. But, luckily for both of us, we ended up going to a UNR basketball game with friends and we sat next to one another and talked and hit it off.
"But I’ll never forget that first time I met him.”
The Gimenezs have been together for 17 years and have been married since November 2009.
Getting 'The Call'
On June 3, 2009, after six seasons in the minor leagues, Gimenez got the call every baseball player dreams of. The call to the majors. The Cleveland Indians were calling him up for a game to be played at the Metrodome in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Twins.
“I was working while he was kind of working his way through the minors because as a minor-league baseball player you don’t make much," Kellie said. "I was working in Northern California and I had just gone out to visit him in Buffalo, N.Y., I think. He was playing Triple-A ball for the Cleveland Indians, and I had just been out there for a week, and I flew home and I landed in Oakland and my girlfriend picked me up and we were driving back to our place and I got a call from him: 'I just got called up,' and they were playing in Minnesota.
"I never unpacked my suitcase. My girlfriend turned around, took me to the airport and I got on the first flight to Minnesota. I remember calling my boss like, 'Hey, I know I just took vacation time, but Chris just got called up,' and he was like, 'No, go! You can work from there.' I had my computer and he said, 'You have to go there.' So bags still packed, I turned around and went back to the airport and we went to Minnesota. He didn’t play the first game, but I think it was the second or third game (he got to play). His best friend flew out, too, so it was him and I in the stands watching him.
"The first day he got to play, he went in as a pinch runner at the end, but the next day he started and his very first hit as a major league baseball player was a home run. I will never forget his best friend and me standing in the stands screaming for him in the middle of Minnesota, everybody was staring at us, but it was just so cool. He pointed up to us in the stands as he crossed home plate. We have that ball, that jersey, the ticket, all hanging in one of our downstairs rooms. It was a really cool moment.”
Life with 50-plus moves
Kellie isn't one to sit still, so keeping busy was a priority while adventuring with her husband on his baseball journey.
"I always wanted to have a backup plan, so I took an educational leave and I was getting my Masters in business online while I traveled with him," she said. "So I always had the intention of maybe going back to work whenever baseball was over. We didn't know how long that was going to last. The first year traveling, I wasn't pregnant, didn't have kids, it was fun. It was exciting, and two weeks after we got home from our honeymoon we moved to Venezuela for five weeks and he played winter ball there.
"After we came home, we went to spring training, we moved for Triple-A, he got called up, sent down, called up, sent down, and I really got thrown into this baseball life. It's funny, I joke with Chris when we started dating in college, I never knew this was on his radar. I never dreamed of being a baseball wife or professional athlete. I imagined a 9-5 job with my husband coming home, so this was really different, but fun. We had a lot of fun doing it, even though we never knew what tomorrow was going to look like or what his paycheck was going look like or where we were going to be living, but we just took it as an adventure and just went for it."
Gimenez was able to make a lot of friends on the road as her husband fought to stay in the big leagues.
"The nice thing is the baseball wives, just become a community of friends, you just instantly become best friends because you're in it together and you're going to be stuck together for the next six months, hanging out every day watching your husbands play," she said. "So I really became close with those baseball wives, some of them I'm still really close friends with. I poured myself into my Masters. It gave me something to look forward to and something to work for because I'm not one to sit still.
"We moved well over 50 times, we didn't pack furniture, just suitcases and toys once we had kids, or baby stuff, pack it in our car. We would either drive or ship our car to wherever Chris was playing, but we moved a ton. We've lived in Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Cleveland, Washington, we've lived all over the place."
Some of Kellie's favorite places lived were Seattle and Minneapolis. She moved to the the Gopher State when their kids were 5, 2 and 2 months old, and said that was the season she was most nervous about, knowing her husband was going to be gone half of the time.
Roots in Reno
Upon expecting their first child, the Gimenezs decided they wanted Reno to be home.
"Once my oldest son started school, we decided I wasn't going to home school and this was going to be home and this was going to be their normal," Kellie said. "We didn't want to just be traveling around with Dad, we wanted them to have friends and go to school and have that consistency."
While it may be tough at times to be away from her husband while raising three kids in the process, it's the memories and little things, such as watching 4th of July fireworks in a major league dugout or taking the kids out on a major league field for batting practice and experiencing the World Series, that makes it worth it, Kellie said.
Wine Wednesday topics with Kellie Gimenez
- Quarantine life around the Gimenez household - 0:00
- Kellie's high school/college volleyball career - 6:32
- Meeting Chris at Nevada - 9:02
- Chris getting called up to the majors - 10:52
- Keeping busy while Chris was playing baseball - 13:10
- Some of Kellie's favorite cities - 16:40
- Favorite memories of Chris playing baseball - 20:05
- Best and worst thing about being a baseball wife - 22:30
- Kellie's hobbies & Beachbody - 26:17
- Kellie's favorite part about Northern Nevada & some of her favorite things - 30:21