Jake Kennedy slugs his way into record books
Former United States Olympian Mark Spitz famously once said life is true to form; records are meant to broken. However, he never said that records are meant to be shattered.
But shattering records is exactly what the Shippensburg University baseball team’s first baseman Jake Kennedy has done in his career with the Raiders. In four seasons at SU, Kennedy has launched 45 home runs, while driving in 141 runs. Kennedy is currently SU’s record-holder — and the PSAC record-holder— for home runs in a career, most home runs in a season, while possessing SU’s single-season RBI record.
What does Kennedy think about breaking records? Frankly, it is not that big of a deal to him.
“Did he break another record?” SU head coach Matt Jones joked. “As far as he is concerned about it, you would never know that any of this is going on. Because that’s how he is, that is how we have reacted to it. He doesn’t like guys making a big deal out of it.”
While Kennedy himself is not one to talk about his personal success, Jones acknowledged that the records Kennedy has set are huge, when you look at the history of the SU baseball program, and the players that have come before Kennedy.
“I’m honored to be the coach here,” Jones said. “I know the history of this program in and out, and for him to have that kind of a record, knowing the players that have come here before, it’s incredible. Nobody deserves it more than he does.”
This season, Kennedy has a batting average of .316, to go along with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs, entering today. But things have not always been easy for Kennedy, who had a breakout year in 2015, before being derailed by a shoulder injury that required surgery, forcing Kennedy to sit most of the 2016 season.
“Last year I battled some injuries,” Kennedy said. “I had surgery after my sophomore year. Coming into my junior year, in the first series I dislocated my hand, and was out for five weeks and was not able to play much.”
While Kennedy was sidelined, he worked hard, and did play in 26 games, though his injuries clearly affected his play, as Kennedy was held to a .206 average, while hitting just two home runs, after his breakout 2015 campaign that included a .352 batting average, 19 home runs and 49 RBIs, with a .753 slugging percentage.
Kennedy willingly sacrificed a year of eligibility to try and produce for his teammates, but the injury hindered his ability.
“His sophomore season was huge, he had a great year. That summer he went to the Ripken League and had a shoulder injury, which was unfortunate,” Jones said. “But to his credit, this staff really wanted to throw to him and he gutted it out, but he wasn’t healthy enough to play. He wanted the team to do well and he felt like the team had a chance to win so he sacrificed a year for the team.”
Kennedy, now in his senior season, feels like the adversity he overcame has led him in returning to form.
“I just took [the injury] as an opportunity to work on stuff I needed to work on and hitting was something I’ve worked on ever since, and good things came from it,” Kennedy said.
When his SU career started, Kennedy came in as a catcher, but has made the transition to first base this season, and has excelled. Kennedy believes that the transition has gone well, but said that he misses being able to figure out an umpire’s strike zone from behind the plate.
“The only thing different from catching is I knew the balls and strikes in an umpire’s zone,” Kennedy said. “That is one thing I kind of miss out on playing first base, but other than that, it’s a lot easier. It’s a lot easier on me to stop the wear and tear on my knees, but it feels good to be playing first.”
Kennedy is also excited to be back to his old self on the field.
“It feels great. Coming from the injuries and everything after not playing much more than 20 games, it kind of feels great doing what I can do because I know what I’m capable of, so it feels good to be back to that,” Kennedy said.
The team has also excelled behind Kennedy’s huge season, as the Raiders currently sit at 30–22–1. SU’s run in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament, was enough to earn it a spot in the Atlantic Regional tournament.
“It’s my last year so I’d like to go as far as we possibly can,” Kennedy said. “We have a really young team with three seniors. We are just really trying to put in their minds that this is our last opportunity to do something and we want to go out with a bang.”
Kennedy, who has clearly emerged as a leader alongside seniors Ryan McMillen and Mark Curtis, has made an impact that will leave a legacy at SU for years to come.
“It has been a privilege to work with Jake,” SU assistant coach Anthony Renz said. “Not only is he a great player, but he is a great person as well. His results speak for themselves. He’s a tremendous player.”
With Kennedy’s career nearly in the books, he reflected on his memories at Fairchild Field, but for him, he approaches it like he does everything else — nonchalantly.
“It just means I’m at the end of it,” Kennedy said. “It may not be the end of it because I may be able to pursue something after my time here, but I have a lot of memories here. I broke some records and most of my memories include home runs.”
While nine PSAC baseball players were drafted last season, Kennedy has a chance to play professionally, as he leads the PSAC in RBIs, and has nearly twice as many home runs as the second-place person in the conference.
Kennedy is a Business Management major, and with a love for sneakers he said he may want to open a shoe store someday, but he is willing to let life come to him.
“Whatever life brings me is what I’m going for,” he said.
When Kennedy looks back on his career, it is uncertain that he will ever admit if the records are important to him or not.
“You never know [how Kennedy views the record] and you’re never going to know. Maybe when it’s all said and done he will look back on it, but that’s just how it is,” Jones said.
One thing is certain however — Kennedy will leave a legacy of terrorizing pitchers across the league.