Monday, April 9, 2018

Captain Clutch: Braintee's Alex Kennedy Hoping To Put Perfect Cap On Memorable Career

Photo Courtesy of Bob Whitney (@WhitneyBob)
Braintree catcher Alex Kennedy is back as one of the most feared hitters in Massachusetts. 

By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

Alex Kennedy was only a sophomore but he had already etched his name in Braintree baseball history.

Two years ago, the Wamps’ then-two hitter came up in the bottom of the ninth of the Division 1A Super Eight championship with Braintree and St. John’s Prep tied at two and the winning run 90 feet away.

In front of a raucous Braintree crowd Kennedy knocked a single back through the box to score the game winning run and hand the Wamps their second consecutive Super Eight title. 

“It’s a moment I’ll just never forget,” Kennedy says still smiling thinking back to the mob he experienced just beyond the first base bag. “It’s the best experience I’ve ever had playing any sport at any time.” 

It was just the beginning for Kennedy who has assumed the mantle of one Massachusetts’ top hitters.

Kennedy grew up in Weymouth where he learned the basic fundamentals of the sport he has come to love courtesy of father.

He moved to Braintree prior to his freshman year of high school and that spring found himself practicing on the same field as the best team that Wamps’ coach Bill O’Connell has had in his now 12 years at he helm.

Kennedy watched from the sidelines as the likes of Connor Columbus, Anthony Venuti, Erik MacDonald, and Scott Creedon led Braintree to a Super Eight championship.

As Kennedy watched the dog pile on the mound after Creedon closed it out in 2015, he knew he was right at home.

“It was obvious to me that this was the place I wanted to be,” said Kennedy. “I always wanted to be a part of a baseball town and seeing those guys win it, just how badly they wanted it – it made me want to share in that winning one day.”

He entered his sophomore season with no clear position. Mitch Baker manned the catching duties for the Wamps but Kennedy’s bat proved too dangerous to be left on the bench.

O’Connell and his staff tried the outfield for Kennedy where he proved more than capable of holding his own.

As a sophomore, the left-handed hitting slugger hit .392 with 31 total hits before capping it off with perhaps the biggest hit in Wamps history.

He showcased pull power and was always a threat to lead the ball park.

It was the weeks leading up his junior season, however, where Kennedy impressed his coaches the most.

With Colin Rios and Baker long graduated Braintree was in need of a catcher who could both handle a fairly inexperienced Wamps pitching staff while also proving to be a tough out.

O’Connell turned to Kennedy in hopes he could simply partially fill the hole left-behind. The returns have been off the charts.

Despite being mild-mannered, composed, and to himself Kennedy has embraced the role as the Wamps steward on the diamond. He breaks out of his quiet shell to keep the Braintree pitching staff and defense motoring along with him leading the direction.

It’s a part of the game that Kennedy says he could no longer play without.

“I just love being that leader for all of our guys. Everyone looks to you.”

The six-foot-two, 195-pound Kennedy has used his build, lateral quickness, and arm strength to develop into an above-average catcher behind the dish all while maintaining his offensive potency.

Kennedy followed up his stellar sophomore year at the plate with an even better junior campaign hitting .428 with 33 total hits en route to SuiteSports MIAA All-State honors.

“We’ve had a nice run of great catchers at Braintree,” said O’Connell. “We were little concerned with who our next guy would be after Colin and Mitch graduated and Alex has really filled that gap for us. He played left field for originally, but we thought that catcher would be a great spot for him and he’s just done a terrific job.”

Nearly a year to the date after handing the Wamps their second title in as many years Kennedy had a chance to be the hero once again.

Braintree trailed Boston College High in the Super Eight Quarter Final 11-10 with two on and two outs in the top of the ninth. This time, Kennedy just got under it popping it up to third base to end Braintree’s season.

Kennedy heads into his senior year with no plans of looking back on how last season concluded.

“We’re just turning the page and starting again,” said Kennedy. “There’s no thinking back or anything like that. I love the fact that we’re a resilient group.”

Collegiate athletics and the Kennedy family were unfamiliar to one another, but it came as no surprise to anyone when he started fielding interest across the Northeast.

A flurry of NE-10 schools began reaching out to Kennedy following his sophomore season giving him the confidence that he could play at the next level.

Once Southern New Hampshire University offered him a roster spot though there was little doubt in Kennedy’s mind where he wanted to attend.

“I took tour of the campus of course and it was just the fit for me,” recalled Kennedy. “I started receiving calls from my coaches after my sophomore year that colleges were interested, which really set off in my head that I could do this in the future.”

What makes Kennedy so dangerous now it not only his his pull power but his willingness to drive the ball to the opposite field.

While the fastball on the outer third was once a weak point for the future Penman, that is no longer the case. He can effortlessly tattoo that pitch into the left center-field gap preventing opposing defenses from shifting over to the right side of the diamond.

“For the last two years he has batted for a high-average and we’ve had Kennedy come up in the money spot,” said O’Connell. “The biggest improvement is that when he first came up he looked like the classic lefty pull hitter. Since then though he’s really worked and become a gap-to-gap guy.”

Now with just over two months left in his high school career Kennedy is hoping to close it out the same way he started it – by being at the center of a Wamps’ celebration.

“It’s why you play public high school baseball,” said Kennedy. “We all grew up together for the most part, and have played for years together. There’s nothing else I would rather be doing than going out with a Braintree uniform on.”

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