November 30, 2011
The last time she checked, Chantel Kendall said, Major League Baseball players had an "85 percent" divorce rate. Her own bitter divorce to Jason Kendall(notes) — a major-league catcher for 16 seasons, most recently with the Kansas City Royals — was finalized this past fall. Does divorce mean she's kicked out of the often close-knit inner circle of baseball spouses? And how is she transitioning into being legally single again? Anybody who tunes into VH-1 to watch "Baseball Wives," which premieres Wednesday night, is going to find out.
Kendall recently told Big League Stew her ex-husband won't be a part of the show, though "he's supportive of his children's mother." Their four kids won't appear, either. The show is set in fabulous and trendy Scottsdale, Ariz. — basically the epicenter of spring training in the state — which gives baseball a chance to at least be part of the scenery.
"After talking about it really thoroughly with my kids, we decided that I'm exposing my life and they're not exposing theirs," the 40-year-old Kendall said in a phone interview. Based on the first episode, it was a wise move to leave them out of it.
Modeled after "Basketball Wives" and other "Housewives"-type scripted reality programs, "Baseball Wives" promises plenty of drama (manufactured and otherwise) as it follows (or leads around) a group of women who are married to ballplayers. Or used to be married to ballplayers. Or women who date ballplayers. Or used to date ballplayers. Or used to be married to, or date, former ballplayers. None of the regular cast members are actually married to a player who finished the 2011 season in the major leagues.
The cast also includes Anna Benson, wife of former pitcher Kris Benson(notes) who got famous by posing in a swimsuit for FHM Magazine and for saying on Howard Stern that she would get revenge on her husband, if he ever cheated on her, by sleeping with every one of his teammates.
"Let's face it. I'm still the most exciting thing to happen to the Mets since '86," said Benson, who probably will steal every scene in which she appears on the show.
"I think 'piece of work' is accurate when describing Anna," Kendall said. "Anna is one of those characters who's really, really bright. Maybe, at times, too smart for her own good. Anna has lots of sides to her and that makes her very interesting. There's not a boring bone in her body."
Also in the cast: Tanya Grace, who used to be married to Mark Grace of the Cubs and Diamondbacks. Brooke Villone, wife of Ron Villone(notes) (who might or might not be retired) is a model. Jordana Lenz used to date Nyjer Morgan(notes) but is not officially attached to anyone at the moment. She's also described by Benson as a baseball "groupie" and by Kendall as a "cleat chaser." Erika Monroe Williams, though she's not mentioned prominently in all of VH-1's promotional material, is the wife of former slugger Matt Williams, now a coach with the D-backs. She does figure prominently in the first episode as a villain.
How much actual baseball can we expect from "Baseball Wives"? Well, in the first episode, you get to see Kris Benson take a swing in a batting cage. And we catch a glimpse of someone who appears to be Nyjer Morgan walking in a hotel hallway. Lenz cannot bring herself to get over him. Fans of Nyjer know how you feel, kiddo.
But there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of baseball going on. It would help if the majority of the cast were married to active ballplayers. We'll just have to enjoy the cat fights, kooky behavior and drummed-up drama. There's so much bleeping of swear words that it's hard to follow what the women are saying sometimes.
Kendall does expect viewers to appreciate the humor on the show — and some of it is funny, if unintentionally. Kendall's journey as a single mom looking to establish her own legacy might be a compelling storyline. The tabloids reported that she had been engaged to Sean Stewart (one of Rod's sons) but that appears to be over.
"I wish him the best," Kendall said.
But being a "baseball wife" is a unique challenge. The husband is gone eight months a year, meaning the wife has to act as both parents. Granted, the husband is providing a great living for his family, but the distance and time away obviously strains relationships.
"It's not [a life] for a decorative-arm-piece-type of a woman," Kendall said. "You have to be really independent."
Not that Kendall feels sorry for herself.
"The best thing to do is put it into perspective with military wives," Kendall said. "Once you start to get that 'boo-hoo for me' kind of crap going, you really have to sit back and remember that those women in the military don't even have the guarantee that their husband's going to live, survive. They're making peanuts for money. Where they have to work too, and hold up the fort and not know if their husband's coming home."
As for what she wants out of "Baseball Wives," perhaps Kendall can become the next Bethenny Frankel.
"I'd like to be able to write a book, launch a fragrance, do a workout DVD — since I have been an athlete my entire life," said Kendall, who used to joke with her ex-husband that she played five sports when he played only two.
Kendall and Benson seem like a great starting point for a watchable show. We'll see if "Baseball Wives" can make the cut. If you can't wait for Wednesday night, or happen to miss the premiere, you can watch it online. And if you want to keep tabs on Kendall without being considered too much of a stalker, check out her Twitter account and Facebook page.