Former Pittsburgh Pirates organisation infielder and Perth Heat star Sam Kennelly is gearing up to coach the Ravens in Baseball WA’s third season of Pro League baseball.
This marks Kennelly's first foray into Pro League coaching, taking over from Eric Grabe who took the side all the way in 2019. The Ravens claimed a 9-2 win over the Dragons in the deciding game last season, and the 24-year-old Kennelly is certain that he’s got the knowledge, tools and players for the Ravens to remain competitive again in search of back-to-back titles.
“I did keep a close eye on the past few seasons, and I’m really excited to see some of the talent in the teams as they go head to head with some of the best 15-18-year-olds in WA," Kennelly said. "The team’s potential is very high. We have a great mix of athletes and I’m looking forward to seeing these young studs go to work.”
After finalising the roster following last month's draft, Kennelly is feeling confident that the Ravens can build on their success in previous seasons. He hopes his players will be able to take a lot away from this season, including a desire to learn, grow and develop, especially as the summer season quickly rolls back around.
“The keys to success for our team will be to have fun and compete. The outcome of the game doesn't matter, as long as our team goes out and plays hard first pitch to last,” Kennelly says. "I want them to come out of the program not only as better ballplayers but as better people and teammates too.”
Kennelly has his sights set on a fantastic season for the Ravens, and he is excited to see what the next few months have in store.
“My goal for this year’s Pro League is to be able to help the players become the best players they can be and to be there as a mentor for them to get as much out of the program as they can," Kennelly said. "Another goal is to beat Mitch Williams' Wolves team!”
Kennelly has been in charge of many junior teams over the years, and he looks forward to using his professional experience to teach these young, talented baseballers. Kennelly doesn’t shy away from crediting his past mentors as they have supported his venture into the professional baseball playing and coaching ranks.
“There’s been a lot of coaches who have been involved in my baseball career and dedicated more time than I could have asked for. The likes of Don and Andy Kyle, Rod Drew, and my older brothers Adam, Tim, Matt and Josh have been role models to me since day one,” Kennelly said. "Many others have been with me pretty much every step of my baseball career and still today I’m grateful for these people and what they have done for me.”
His experience within a professional organisation such as the Pirates, as well as his success with the Heat in the Australian Baseball League, has enlightened Kennelly to the various styles of coaching and gameplay, something he’ll use to inspire the Ravens throughout the upcoming Pro League season.
“Growing up and having these ABL and professional guys come down and be a role model to myself by giving up their time was always something I appreciated,” Kennelly says. "Now being in their shoes, giving the same support back to the younger group is something I always take pride in doing - setting good examples and being a mentor for the players.”
After the ups and downs of the current climate with the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennelly believes Pro League will benefit baseball’s resumption in the state and provide players and coaches with the groundwork to work towards a full summer season.
“It’s a great opportunity for those whose season was cut short towards finals time and great preparation for next season," Kennelly said. "Especially with COVID-19 and the restrictions that were put in place, it’s the perfect program to better themselves and get an advantage heading in the 2020/21 season.”
Overall, Kennelly is relishing the opportunity to take hold of the Ravens in the upcoming Pro League season, with the competition set to get underway on Tuesday, August 4 as Kennelly’s team leads things off against the Wolves.
“It’s going to be a tough competition, there is plenty of talent and hard workers throughout the teams so it will be fun to watch," Kennelly said.