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Adam Kennedy--Bat Man

by Kevin McCann

posted August 25, 1999

From the time that the Cardinals made him their first round pick (20th overall) in the June 1997 draft, the two words often used to describe Adam Kennedy have been "pure hitter." This is only his third professional season, but it took him just two to climb the minor league developmental ladder from rookie ball to Triple-A. The reason? First-year minor league hitting instructor Mitchell Page puts it best: "He refuses to fail."

Kennedy split the 1997 season at short-season Class A New Jersey and high A Prince William (now Potomac), batting a combined .325 for the year. He started the next season at Prince William, but an early-season injury to Arkansas shortstop Jason Woolf gave him the opportunity to make the important jump to Double-A ball. After just 52 games and a .278 batting average against Texas League pitching, the Cardinals were impressed enough to reward him with yet another promotion, to Triple-A Memphis. Frankly, he didn't seem to notice the difference: he batted .305 in 74 games and had multi-hit games in 25 of them. "It was fun," he recalled about his eventful sophomore season. "A lot of learning was going on, experiencing the way different levels go about their business. The higher I got, the more I liked that part of the game."

The 23-year-old Norristown, Pennsylvania native has stayed put during the 1999 campaign, hitting .328 with 10 home runs, 62 RBI, and 20 stolen bases for Memphis at the time of his major league promotion on August 18. In addition, he was the starting second baseman for the U.S. team in the inaugural Futures Game at Fenway Park before the All-Star Game and played for Team USA in the Pan-American Games this summer.

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The big question mark with Kennedy's potential has never been his hitting. He was drafted as a shortstop out of California State-Northridge, but as he has progressed, the Cardinals have shifted him around the infield to second and third. This season, they even tried him in left field, "just to open up his opportunities," explained director of player development Mike Jorgenson. "A lot of people look at that and say 'Well, he must be a bad defensive player' because you're trying to find a position [for him]. He's not...What we're trying to do is make sure that when he goes [to the major leagues], he has a chance to play some place. So if he plays a couple different positions, that's going to only help him."

But it is his potent line-drive bat--and not his defensive abilities--that has brought him to St. Louis. "He is about as ready...to be a big league hitter as we have," Jorgenson said the day Kennedy was promoted from Memphis. The Cardinals' promotions of he and highly-touted lefthander Rick Ankiel before the September roster expansion are clear indications that they are looking toward the future and what place these two prominent prospects may have in it. In Kennedy's case, his late August callup is possibly twofold: to see what he can do against major league pitching and, if successful, showcase him for potential suitors with much-desired starting pitching.

Whatever the case may be, it doesn't seem to bother Adam Kennedy. When rumors cropped up about his possible departure from the Cardinals organization near the trading deadline, he told one Memphis sportswriter, "The big leagues are the big leagues, right?"

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kevin McCann is the editor of "Cardinals in the Bushes", which can be found at http://www.fastlink.to/CardinalsMinors/.
Be sure to check the site for information describing Kevin's upcoming book on his 1999 tour throughout the Cardinals minor league system.




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