To make the leap from a microscopic three home runs in the 2006 campaign to a team-leading 12 with over a month left in the season is staggering. To do it in your senior year, well, that’s just fitting. Spartan second baseman Ryan Kennedy is making the most of his final season with the club.
The offensive production from the Spartans has been a major reason for their No. 1 ranking. Kennedy has been front and center for the onslaught, leading Tampa starters in most offensive categories, including RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. This performance isn’t based on just luck, but an off-season commitment.
“This past summer I just starting working in the weight room, getting faster and stronger,” he said. “Not really worrying about big muscles and stuff, just working on forearm and wrists. The way the season’s going the way it’s going, it’s been working.”
With added power, Kennedy also stepped into a leadership role. Being one of the main contributors on offense, he has become one of the guys counted on to come up with the big hit. But he’s also coming through in setting an example for younger teammates.
“Being a senior, I got to be a role model type,” said Kennedy. “I have to be energized and basically show the younger guys how to play Spartan ball.”
Kennedy posses a key trait that most power hitters don’t: great plate discipline. He has 34 walks, by far the most on the team. Jose Jimenez has 29, and the next-highest total is Troy Ferguson’s 14. A good eye for the strike zone was something that he has been graced with his whole baseball career.
“I’ve had an idea of what the umpire’s location is,” he said. “Once I get that, I’ll narrow the zone to where the strike is and where the ball is.”
As for Kennedy’s plans after school, continuing to play at the professional level seems like an obvious next step. With major league scouts at every UT game, it easy for players to lose focus and dream about the next level. But for Kennedy, he remains focused on this season.
“That’s always been my number one dream,” he said. “But right now I’m not really thinking about that. I’m just thinking about helping the team win ball games and get back to the World Series. I know these younger guys haven’t experienced that, and I’d like them to because it was a lot of fun up there.”