By David Fong
TROY — Austin Kendall recently made two lifelong dreams come true — one of which he had always been hoping for, the other of which he never thought possible.
“This feels incredible,” said Kendall, a second baseman on the Troy baseball team who recently signed a national letter of intent to play baseball and attend school at the University of Rio Grande. “This has been a goal of mine since I was little. I’ve always wanted to play college baseball.”
Not only will Kendall get the opportunity to play in college, but he could get the opportunity to do so alongside his older brother, Zach. The two were five years apart and — aside from games in the backyard — never got the opportunity to play baseball together. Following his graduation from Troy, Zach went on to pitch at Bowling Green State University. Due to injury, however, the elder Kendall only played for two years at Bowling Green, leaving him with two years of eligibility.
Zach, who has been working on getting healthy and back into baseball shape, has enrolled in graduate school at Rio Grande and the two will have a chance to reunite in 2019-20, Austin’s freshman season at Rio Grande.
“This is something I never thought would happen,” Austin said. “We were five years apart, and he was always my role model, someone I looked up to. I think he might be more excited than I am about this. Now we can finally play together. A lot of times when we were younger, we’d have games on the same day — my mom would go with Zach and my dad would go with me. It will be nice not to have to do that anymore.”
The opportunity to possibly play alongside his brother is just one of the things that drew Kendall to the University of Rio Grande, however.
“When I went down and visited and saw the hills and everything else, it was just a beautiful campus,” Kendall said. “Plus, everyone was so nice down there. The people don’t lock their doors. They’ve got a farm on campus. I really liked the coach and players, too. I loved everything about it. It was the perfect fit for me.”
Last season, Kendall hit .348 with 14 runs batted in, a double and four stolen bases. For his efforts, he was named second-team All-Greater Western Ohio Conference American League.
“He’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve had in my 14 years coaching here,” Troy coach Ty Welker said. “He works hard to get better every single day, which is an awesome quality to have. At first, because of his size, you would think he’s going to be a slap hitter, but he can hit to all fields. He’s got a little bit of pop.
“This is a great opportunity for him to not only play college baseball, but to be able to play alongside his brother. What an awesome experience. That’s something you dream about, but never think will happen.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong