By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The name Steven Kendrick has been on the baseball radar in the Southeast since his breakout 2016 season.
The Munford Cougar product crushed 13 home runs that season earning a selection to the 11th annual POWER SHOWCASE All-American Team representing the state of Tennessee in the Underclassmen category. Kendrick also took some hacks in the prestigious POWER SHOWCASE Home Run Derby.
“It just kind of caught fire last year with all those home runs,” Kendrick said. “Down in Miami invited along with the top 50 home run hitters across America.
I placed 15th hitting one 468 feet. It was probably one of the longest ones I’ve ever hit. It was an awesome experience. I got to meet Giancarlo Stanton down there. It was just awesome.”
Kendrick got to rub elbows with today’s premiere MLB slugger. Back home, Kendrick continued is productivity in 2017 helping the Cougars reach the Class 3A State Baseball Tournament for the first time in 13 years.
With team success and individual numbers, Kendrick received offers from across Tennessee and even as far as South Carolina. But the ideal fit for him was close to home at Southwest Tennessee.
“Steve-o is a real versatile player that can hit, hit for power and hit for average,” Munford Head Coach Scotty Yount said. “He can move a runner. He can just handle the bat really well. He can do whatever the team needs him to do. He can play all over the field.
“He’s one of those guys you can plug in to get you better,” he continued. “And he can give you some innings on the mound when you need him. They’re getting a good one. Good route for him because he definitely play beyond there.”
Kendrick’s route to college baseball was celebrated Jan. 26 in the Munford High School Library alongside his teammate Nick Johnson also heading to Southwest Tennessee.
Joining Kendrick for the ceremony were several friends and family members including parents Pam and Richard. Big Richard was also in attendance, the man who used to watch baseball games on television with his grandson.
“He’s just had a love for the game ever since that young age watching Atlanta Braves games in his grandfather’s lap – 2 or 3 years old,” younger Richard recalled. “Then to the tee to when he could walk, he’s been on the field ever since.”
Once the Kendrick family made the move from Delaware to the Memphis area, Steve joined his father in the garage planting the seeds of his baseball growth. From his time with the Memphis Tigers traveling team to being a standout for the Cougars, Steve earned his spot with the Saluqis.
“It’s the start of his future,” Pam said. “He has a bright future not only from an education standpoint but also from a baseball standpoint. He’s loved the game ever since he was 3 years old. So this is another opportunity for him to take it to the next level.
“It started in his competitive ball years when he was the coach’s son,” she continued. “He had to show he deserved everything he got. He had to be the leader. So he earned everything he got from day one. And he’s taken that to the next level with other traveling teams and into high school.”
Father/Coach said Steve has a natural awareness for the game.
“Just an understanding of the game,” Richard said, “he’s a coach’s player because you have another coach on the field. He understands every dynamic of the game. That’s probably what he brings the best because you can plug him into any position on the field. The understand of the game is probably his best asset.”
Steve’s other assets of the game helped him win several individual awards and honors.
He led Tennessee Class 3A in 2016 with 13 regular season home runs as a sophomore. Steve was named District 13-3A MVP and All-Tournament Team that season.
In 2017 Steve moved from catcher to third base contributing to the Cougars winning the Class 3A Sectionals.
“Help me to realize that you’re only as good as your weakest player,” he said. “Every teammate needs everyone else. Moving from pitcher to position player we had to have a lot of guys pitch. We had to go deep into our rotation because we’re the smallest school in our league. Everybody getting there job done showed me you have to be able to play multiple position.
“The signing takes a lot of weight off my shoulders — hoping people are looking at you or hoping people will recruit you,” Steve added. “But with that weight lifted I can just have fun and play baseball with my friends my senior year.”
Once his senior campaign is done, Steve will join Southwest. Pam said she believes her son will continue to make positive headlines staying on the radar.
“Sets the foundation to where he will finish college,” she concluded. “He has two years not only from a baseball standpoint but from an academic standpoint. He’s been told he can go pretty much wherever he wants to go but this two years are a base for him to develop.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.