Home run Howie key in victory
Howie Kendrick and his Washington Nationals teammates made history as they clinched the 2019 World Series championship Oct. 30 in Houston.
The West Nassau High School graduate was a designated hitter in the Series.
During an interview with Fox Sports, Kendrick recalled the seventh inning two-run homer off pitcher Will Harris that put the Nationals ahead 3-2, before the team catapulted to the 6-2 win.
The clutch hitter sent the ball toward the foul pole in right field, and hit it, but stayed in bounds.
“I was looking at it like, man, ‘Stay fair. Stay fair,’” Kendrick said. “And you know what? It just caught the pole.”
Commentator and former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez asked, “Hey, Howie, I’ve got a question. You’re from a hometown in Florida with 1,000 people?”
“Yeah, Callahan, Florida,” Hendrick replied, holding a microphone.
“You know what? You know, I wouldn’t change anything about the way I grew up man,” Kendrick said. “I grew up without a whole lot. My grandmother was the one who got me into baseball, Ruth Wood. She passed away in ’06 so she got to see me make it to the major leagues. I gave her my rookie jersey and then she passed away from cancer. But she’s the one that really got me into baseball and really kept me out of the neighborhood – kept me out of trouble. And you know, in a small town, you know, a lot of my friends still live there. A lot of the people I grew up with still live there. And a lot of them got to experience this with me and I thank them for that and they’re a big part of who I am and I’ll always remember that. I’ll never forget that.”
Former Little League coach Stewart Hamrick recalled how he caught a glimpse of Kendrick’s hitting ability in the early 1990s when the teen was a member of the senior league in Callahan.
“I was the opposing team’s coach and knew he’d be a ball player when he walked up, hit a home run from the right side and then next time he hit one from the left side. That’s when I knew he was a ballplayer.”
Sybil Harper Purvis hosts the “Home of Howie Kendrick” Facebook group.
She and others would like to see the hometown hero honored with a float in the Callahan Christmas Parade Dec. 7.
In 2017, the WNHS softball field was named in honor of David Crosby. He has assisted the Warrior softball program for many years and also coached in various capacities for nearly 50 years.
Purvis met with WNHS’ administrators to discuss ways to commemorate Kendrick’s achievement. She would also like the Callahan Town Council to honor him with a proclamation. She plans to meet with town officials too.
“Maybe we can at least place something up on the scoreboard at the field with his name and a few of his accomplishments,” she said. “Maybe a bronze plaque on the road that runs between the high school parking lots and the apartments for all to see as they enter the ballfield. Our goal is for some sort of sign at all entrances on major highways coming into Callahan.”
Callahan Mayor Marty Fontes said any name changes would need prior approval.
“I would need council approval and maybe county and post office too,” he said.
During the Callahan Town Council meeting Monday, Council President Ken Bass suggested honoring Kendrick in some way.
“The man has done an outstanding job,” he said. “He’s shown what young people can do.”
Richard Pearce coached Kendrick during his varsity baseball career at WNHS. He never imagined that a local player would reach the pinnacle of a World Series championship.
“As a coach you always dream that you have that guy that has that ability, but it’s a small fraternity of coaches that have that type of player,” Pearce said, adding that Kendrick’s skill sets are rare.
“He has a God-given hand and eye coordination and that’s something you can’t coach,” he said. “It’s baseball instincts and it’s also about character. Baseball is a game of failure and you’re going to fail more times than you’ll succeed.”
Pearce praised Kend-rick’s tenacity and the way he kept driving on with determination despite the highs and lows that go with a baseball career.
“It’s all in his character and the way he carries himself. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
And as the Nationals met every challenge from the season’s start to the playoff berth that eventually led to the ultimate championship win, Pearce added, “They had a do or die game in every series they played in.”