By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
BUFFALO, New York – After making adjustments throughout his freshman season and gaining a new understanding of what the collegiate baseball life was like, Jared Kennedy returned to Canisius College this year with a new outlook.
Currently sidelined with a hip injury, the sophomore southpaw has gained a deeper appreciation for the ups and downs he went through last season, when he got into eight games for the Golden Griffins, and the 19-year-old hurler couldn’t be happier for where he wound up after finishing his high school playing career with the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball in Alberta.
“It’s awesome,” Kennedy said. “I feel like I made the right choice coming here. The coaching staff is really good, [head coach Mike McRae] is really knowledgeable with everything. It was a big adjustment. I went to the Vauxhall Academy and I thought that would prepare me.
“I thought I would come in and be somebody who would be able to help the team right away, but it didn’t end up working out that way. I came back, it’s my sophomore year now, and I came back with a better attitude. That helped me a lot.”
Kennedy admits that his attitude might have needed some adjusting, learning from his freshman year on the field when he made two starts, came out of the bullpen six times, and posted a 1.00 ERA in nine innings, with 10 walks and eight strikeouts.
“I didn’t pitch much last year, and that’s all on me,” he said. “I don’t know if I was just mentally not ready, but I didn’t have consistent innings anywhere along the line and I felt like I strayed away from routines that I had built in Vauxhall that really helped me to focus from start to start.
“I had a pretty successful senior year with Vauxhall and I felt like that was going to carry right into here and I was just going to be able to walk in and be a guy. It really knocks you down a peg right away. So coming into my sophomore year, I felt like I needed to better prepare myself for it and I did all the things again that I did in Vauxhall, and I started pitching a lot better.”
Even though his first collegiate season was less than ideal for Kennedy, the 6-foot, 186-pound left-hander took away a lot from it and is happy with the overall experience he had and the ways he grew his all-around game.
“The guys were great,” he said. “We had a few fifth-year guys, like [Iannick Remillard] who were big. Rem was big for me. He was a guy who pushed me hard in the weight room. He would do the extra stuff. If you stayed with him, you would get better because he would push you to do some things that you might not have been too comfortable with. He was big on extra conditioning and more explosive work that some of the other guys weren’t doing.
“He found stuff and brought it in and I thought if it was going to work for him – because he had a really successful year – it could really help me as well. So last year was a good year because it was a big learning experience for me. If I didn’t have that, I don’t think I would be as prepared for this year, or the years down the road.”
What also helped Kennedy prepare for his time with the Griffs were the two years he spent with the Jets, away from his home in Calgary, earning him the chance to play Division-I baseball in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“Vauxhall was awesome,” the lefty said. “Les McTavish was really good with helping me get here. He was instrumental in that. He prepared me and I was seen by Coach McRae at Canada Cup. I wouldn’t have been on that team if it wasn’t for Vauxhall.
“And McTavish was really good with how we should be, speaking to coaches, being professional, and at Vauxhall having the atmosphere of just wanting to get better every day was something that really helped me prepare for this.”
From Vauxhall to Buffalo, in just a couple short years, Kennedy believes that he is very much a new person, now embracing the unforeseen and the additional responsibilities he has taken on since leaving his home province and country.
“I’ve grown as a person,” Kennedy said. “I feel like I’m more mature, I can handle more stuff. Especially this year. I’m off the meal plan that has the dining hall included, so I have to do that stuff for myself now. I’m cooking for myself, living in the Delavan apartments, so we grocery shop for ourselves and cook, so that was a big adjustment for me because at home, my mom [Kim] did everything, and at Vauxhall, Anna [Bueckert, VAB’s cook] did everything for us, so I’ve grown mature-wise that way.
“And academically, I really cracked down when I got here because there’s extra incentive to do well. It’s one extra thing that they look at. If you’re maybe not performing too well athletically, maybe they look at your school and see that you’re still working hard. I feel like I’ve evolved that way too, taking a lot more ownership over my actions, and I’m more responsible.”
The transition was made slightly easier for Kennedy in coming to Canisius because he got to join more Canadians than at any other D-I program. He is currently playing with two other former Jets, junior lefty J.P. Stevenson of New Glasgow, PEI, and Bienfait, Sask., freshman Carson Perkins, along with Ontarians Jake Lumley and Josh Shepley of Windsor, Zach Sloan of Brampton, Liam Wilson of Ayr, and Nick Capitano of Bolton, and junior outfielder from Montreal, Que., Cyrus Senior.
“That was a big thing,” Kennedy said. “I’ve heard horror stories before, of Canadians going down to the deep south and blowing out their arms because their coaches don’t care about the Canadian kids or stuff like that.
“I knew that I was going to come here and be treated like one of the guys on the team, not a Canadian, or the lone Canadian. It was comforting. I played with J.P. and Perkins in two different years [at Vauxhall], so it was cool to know that I’ve got a guy older than me and a guy younger than me who I can learn from and help out.”