Baseball standout Adam Kennedy during his CSUN days and now with the Anaheim Angels.
What Cal State Northridge fans have known for years now the entire nation and even the world has suddenly discovered. Baseball alumnus Adam Kennedywho rocketed from being CSUNıs best-ever baseball player to the Anaheim Angelsı sudden ticket to the World Seriescan be one heck of a slugger.
The 26-year-old Kennedy, a CSUN shortstop from 199597 now in his third season as the Angelsı second baseman, wrote himself into the record books and delivered "the biggest game of my life". On Sunday, October 13 against the Minnesota Twins, he hit three home runs in a single playoff game to help the Angels clinch their first-ever American League pennant in 41 years.
Until that momentous day, Kennedy was best known as CSUNıs only three-time All-American in baseball and the holder of virtually every Matador batting record. Now heıs the first CSUN baseball alumnus to reach the World Series and only the fifth player in baseball history, along with Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, to homer three times in a postseason game.
"I donıt care if I have another one. This is it right here, the biggest game of my life," Kennedy said after his third homer that day sparked a record-setting 10-run seventh inning that brought the Angels from behind and on to a 135 victory in the fifth and deciding game of the American League Championship Series.
"You know, I got about five steps out of the batterıs box after hitting that third home run and said to myself, I canıt believe it, thereıs no way that just happened,ı " Kennedy recalled. "It was pretty surreal, pretty amazing, and such a big game for us, the city, myself. Hopefully, itıs the start of a new kind of positive history."
Indeed, Kennedyıs sudden hero status (his home run performance also earned him the Most Valuable Player award for the ALCS series) is as much a surprise to some as the Angelsı trip to the World Series. The Angels had not even been playing Kennedy regularly against left-handed pitchers, and the team itself finished last season 41 games out of first place.
All the more remarkable, then, that Kennedyıs three-run shot in the seventh inning came against a Twins left-hander, Johan Santana, against whom Kennedy had been hitless in their past seven encounters. Add to that, Angels manager Mike Scioscia, with two men on and no outs, had first asked Kennedy to sacrifice bunt before later allowing him to swing away.
For the game, the ninth position hitter in the Angels lineup went 4-for-4 with five runs batted in, also tying a record for RBI in an ALCS game. Kennedyıs first two homers in the third and fifth innings were solo shots off Twins right-hander Joe Mays. Then in the seventh inning, Kennedy fouled his first bunt attempt, hit two more foul balls, and then hit his three-run shot. Later in the same inning, he also singled.
The three homers in a postseason game suddenly put Kennedy, who only had seven during the entire regular season, in the company of Babe Ruth (who did it in 1926 and 1928), Bob Robertson (1971), Reggie Jackson (1977), and George Brett (1978). Ruth, Jackson and Brett all have been inducted into baseballıs Hall of Fame, which now has asked for Kennedyıs bat.
Not that Kennedy came out of nowhere in the championship series. After coming to the Angels in 2000 via a trade from the St. Louis Cardinals, Kennedy this past season was the American Leagueıs seventh leading hitter with a .312 average and had the leagueıs best month when he hit .404 in August. He had batted .266 in 2000 and .270 in 2001 with the Angels.
Kennedyıs CSUN baseball career also was a good sign of the future. As a sophomore and junior, Kennedy led the nation in hits (121 in 1996 and 134 in 1997) in consecutive seasons, the first and only NCAA Division I player to do so. He also was just the third CSUN baseball player drafted in the first round, taken 20th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1997.
Kennedy was inducted into the universityıs athletics Hall of Fame in 2001, and regularly has practiced here during the off-season and attended the annual alumni baseball game that precedes each season. Ryan Finney, CSUNıs sports information director, said Kennedyıs collegiate performance unquestionably ranks him as CSUNıs best baseball player.
To this day, Kennedy still holds a half dozen Matadors baseball career records, including batting average (.414), hits (337), doubles (63), triples (18), RBI (234) and sacrifice flies (11). He also holds a half dozen single-season CSUN records, including from 1997 batting average (.482), hits (134), runs (96), doubles (32) and RBI (99).
Matadors in the Major Leagues Adam Kennedy 1999 (St. Louis Cardinals), 2000-current (Anaheim Angels) Robert Fick 1998-current (Detroit Tigers) Jeremy Hernandez 1991-93 (San Diego Padres), 1993 (Cleveland Indians), 1994-1995 (Florida Marlins) Jim Vatcher 1990 (Philadelphia Phillies), 1990 (Atlanta Braves), 1991-92 (San Diego Padres) Steve Ellsworth 1988 (Boston Red Sox) Gil Kubski 1980 (California Angels) Jason Thompson 1976-80 (Detroit Tigers),1980 (California Angels),1981-85 (Pittsburgh Pirates),1986 (Expos) Lyman Bostock 1975-77 (Minnesota Twins), 1978 (California Angels)
@csun | October 21, 2002 issue
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