By Megan Wanner
This year, Mike Kennedy celebrates his 13th year as head coach of Elon University’s baseball team. Before becoming head coach, Kennedy was staffed as the team’s pitching coach for 4 years and was recently appointed to the USA National Collegiate Baseball Team coaching staff as a pitching coach.
Kennedy is recognized as being the most successful coach in Elon baseball history credited with more wins than any other coach at 395 victories having coached 11 of his 12 teams to have winning records, 10 of which to have seasons of 30 or more victories. During his last 12 seasons, he has coached the Phoenix in 18 victories over opponents ranked in the top-25.
Last year, Kennedy led the team to become the 2008 Southern Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions with a 19-8 conference record and a 44-18 overall record. Kennedy was also named the Southern Conference’s Coach of the Year.
Kennedy says his favorite thing about coaching is the relationships he develops with his players. “It is neat to see how they stay in touch and come back to support the program because they had a good experience.”
Growing up in Fayetteville, NC, Kennedy played baseball, basketball and football. When Kennedy began looking at colleges, he knew he wanted to play either football at Wake Forest University or baseball at Elon as a catcher. Coming out of high school, scouts told him he had a better shot at playing baseball. However, it was Elon’s then head coach Rick Jones who persuaded him to play baseball at Elon while majoring in Physical Education.
After college, Kennedy went on to play in the minor leagues for the Oakland Athletics in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Medford, Ore. and Medesto, Calif.
Kennedy says he hopes other people would describe him as energetic with a Type A personality. “I like to think I’m outgoing and friendly although at times I’m not.”
His players seem to agree with Kennedy’s depiction of himself. Matt Hill, an Elon baseball alum, said of Kennedy, “He’s a very player’s oriented coach. He’ll be the first one to get on you, but he’ll also be the first one to give you a pat on the back.”
Kennedy would also say he has a very competitive nature. “I can’t stand to lose at anything, whether it’s a game against Auburn or a game of free throws.”
One of the keys to Kennedy’s success is working well with the players and their motivations. “He’s incredibly competitive,” Hill said. “His teams that have been very successful have been teams that have matched his competitiveness and his personality. He used to tell us, ‘You can’t just enjoy winning, you have to hate to lose.’ There’s no one on the field who hates to lose more than him.”
The best piece of advice anyone ever gave Kennedy came from Tom Pound, the Elon tennis coach during Kennedy’s years of attendance. “When I was a freshman, he told me whatever I did in my life would reflect what happened to my children. He told me to make sure I did the right thing and put myself in the right position to do the right thing down the road. I knew I needed to do well in school and make good decisions. Whatever you do today will impact your family down the road. I was 17 and was just worried about having fun. When you’re in college you’re not ready for those types of statements. But for some reason it hit home with me.”
Kennedy is currently married with two children, a daughter and a son who seems to be following the footsteps of his dad with his love of the same three sports.
Hear how Coach Mike Kennedy got into coaching baseball for Elon: