Jeff Kent said he never wanted to be a pro ballplayer. He retired from Major League Baseball with more home runs than any other second baseman in history. Kent said he never wanted to be a "Little League" dad. He coaches his son's team. Kent also figured, probably, that he'd never coach college baseball. As of this season, he's a volunteer assistant for the Southwestern University team in Georgetown, Texas.
Who could ever say that non-dreams don't come true?
Kent, who retired in 2009 after 17 seasons with six different teams, describes himself to KEYE-TV in Austin as "a former pro baseball player who has a lot of knowledge. If I can pass it on to the next kid, hopefully he'll get better from it. If that happens, then cool."
After playing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and others, what brought Kent to Southwestern, an NCAA Div. III school? Kent makes his home nearby, and he works at a local college baseball development program with Southwestern's new pitching coach, Keith Jackson. Jackson recruited Kent, and here he is, after earning about $86 million playing ball.
After making a career of punishing pitchers' stuff, Kent threw himself a curve ball.
"There's one thing I swore I'd never do when I retired: that was be a little league coach," Kent admitted. When he's not working with the Pirates, you guessed it - he's coaching his son's little league team.
"The younger kids, they don't know who the heck I was or what I did," Kent joked. "You were a ballplayer? You're just a fat old man."
The college kids have an inkling of Kent, though. Pitcher Nino Tutuno says the players know who Kent is and they pay attention to what he says. And head coach R.J. Thomas says recruits who play middle infield find Southwestern more appealing with Kent on the staff. Regarding baseball acumen, they could do a lot worse than absorb Kent's. It's funny, though: In his final seasons with the Dodgers, he was criticized by younger players — such as James Loney — for not being able to relate to them. Kent obviously has had a lot of learning to do himself.
He had a great career in the majors — one that should gain him entry into the Hall of Fame someday. Kent received 15.2 percent of the vote in his first season of eligibility. Among the media, Kent was known for having an abrasive personality. He didn't always get along with teammates. Like, he really didn't get along with them. And there was the time Kent made up a story of how his wrist came to be broken in order to cover up a motorcycle crash because he was doing wheelies.
So, Kent is... imperfect, as role models go. Most people are. But he can inform the Southwestern players about proper work ethic and hitting technique. Kent also can regale them with tales of what not to do.
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