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    Howie Kendrick poses with the 2019 World Series Champions trophy. Source: Instagram

Former Warrior hits go-ahead homer in World Series

Howie Kendrick stepped into the limelight — and the history books — during the 2019 World Series. The designated hitter for the Washington Nationals blasted a home run in Game 7 to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead over the host Houston Astros. The Nationals went on to win 6-2, and the National League Wild Card Game winners claimed their first crown in franchise history.

““I feel like everybody was rooting for (Houston), and we were kind of the underdog in this Series,” Kendrick said. “But it goes to show that you can’t ever count anybody out.”

Kendrick, 36, a West Nassau High School graduate, made his first appearance in a World Series, and the team’s appearance is the first for a Washington, D.C., team since the Senators took on the New York Giants in 1933, according to www.championshiphistory.com/mlb.php.

Kendrick and Pirate Hal Smith (1960) are the only players to hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later while their team was training in a World Series winner-take-all game, according to MLB.com. Kendrick is also the fourth-oldest player to go deep in a Game 7.

During the regular season, Kendrick usually mans second base and has also played first and third. He joined the Nationals mid-season in 2017 as part of a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Following that season, he signed to play another. But in May 2018, he ruptured his Achilles tendon and was off to rehabilitate before rejoining the Nationals.

The 13-season veteran has also played for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

During an online interview with the MLB Network’s High Heat with Christopher Russo, Kendrick reflected on his professional career that began with the Angels in 2002. 

“I got drafted in ’02, and the funny part is Tom Cottrell was my scout — great guy,” Kendrick said. “You know, and I had a chance to play for him in 2003 the next year.

“And, uh, you know, I was really thinking about going back to school. I was big on school at the time, and, you know, one of the things he told me, you know, ‘Hey,’ he goes, ‘if you go back to college next year, you won’t find anybody to pitch to you next year.’

“And not that that scared me or anything, like, you know what I mean? I said, ‘I’m going to take this opportunity and just try to run with it. And honestly, you know, it’s been a great run. It’s been a wild ride.

“If I think about all the things I went through just to get to this point, I mean, it’s been amazing.” 

Kendrick is also the 2019 National League Championship Series MVP. That was due in part to his hitting a game-winning grand slam Oct. 9 in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, winning 7-3. 

“You know what? I was ecstatic,” Kendrick said. “But when I hit it, I knew I got it, just because of the way it came off the bat. You know, it’s funny, because I was on deck, and like, I knew they were probably going to walk one.

“And I was like, ‘Man.’ I was talking to God, funny enough. And I said, ‘Hey, I know you got plans for me. Whatever they are, hopefully, they come out right now.’”

The Nationals went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to ascend to the World Series. 

Bryceville resident Angie Hall and her sister, Gretchen Littlefield, saw Kendrick in 2016 when he played for the Angels. 

“I’m happy to see that after all these years, he is finally getting to play in a World Series,” Hall said, adding, “I like how he’s been a consistent player over the years. He just plays like he loves the game.” 

Hall would like to see the Town of Callahan honor Kendrick with a sign. Nassau County officials plan to host an unveiling of a “Welcome to Yulee” sign honoring Heisman Trophy winner and Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry Nov. 15. 

Kendrick still keeps in touch with some of his classmates.  

“I plan on making a trip back,” he told Russo.  

Former WNHS baseball Coach Richard Pearce coached Kendrick from 1999 through 2001. He always believed that Kendrick was talented enough to play professional baseball. 

“Absolutely,” Pearce said. “He’s very gifted. We had to find someone to give him a chance. He was small in stature, but he sure didn’t play small.” 

Kendrick’s batting average was above .400 each season. 

“He just carried himself well, with a lot of class,” Pearce said. “He was always respectful to his peers and elders alike. He carried himself well.” 

After graduation, Kendrick attended an open tryout and earned a spot at St. Johns River Community College. 

Pearce has since followed Kendrick’s career and has attended his games in Chicago, Tampa and Baltimore. 

During the 2019 regular season, Kendrick had a .344 batting average. He had 115 hits, with 17 home runs and 62 RBI. 

“It makes you proud of our community and our program,” Pearce said. “I’m just so proud of all our athletes who become productive members of society. They’re my boys.

“It’s extra special that he’s in the national spotlight, representing our community and our school.” 

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