Coach Sean Kinney ’05 will be able to build on last year’s record-breaking season Whitman’s baseball team put together. After stepping up to serve as interim head coach last year, Whitman made it official by hiring him to be the head coach.
“I'm thrilled to have someone with quality character who has an outstanding baseball mind and a tremendous work ethic to lead our baseball program,” Athletic Director Dean Snider said. “The team members have great respect for Coach Kinney and look forward to following his lead.”
Provost and Dean of the Faculty Timothy Kaufman-Osborn seconded the opinion. “Sean Kinney made great progress in revitalizing Whitman College baseball this year, and I look forward to watching him build on that success in future years.”
With Kinney at the helm, the Missionaries went 16-22 in the2012 season. The win total was the highest the team has had since 1975, when the Missionaries went 16-14. The team posted an 8-14 conference record, too, which is the second best since Whitman entered the NCAA Division III in 1998.
Coach Kinney’s list of players to watch next season
Cam Young ’14 – “He was fifth in the conference in hitting, and he missed eight games with a concussion and a sprained wrist.”
Aaron Cohen ’14 – “He has good power and had 11 doubles this year. You see him swinging and you think, ‘That’s scary.’” He’s also the closer. He went 2-0 with two saves last year. “He’s been great at the back end for us.”
Kyle Moyes ’14 – Moyes hit seven homeruns to lead the league. He struggled average-wise to start the, but improved at the end. “Look for him to take a big step next year.”
Kyle Buckham ’14 – “He hit .219 the year before and .315 this year. His 14 steals was the most in 16 years for Whitman.”
Spencer Hobson ’15 – “He was among the top 10 in the NWC in ERA. He went 4-2 and had a great year.”
Ozzie Braff ’16 – “We had 27 errors at shortstop the year previous, and he had 13 last year. He hit .290 as freshman with 14 doubles. We’ll have him for three more years.”
Though Whitman hasn’t historically been a powerhouse in NWC baseball, Kinney said the best is yet to come for Missionary baseball.
“It’s an exciting time,” Kinney said. “I really do believe in Whitman baseball. This season we’ll have 11 seniors and 10 juniors. We’re definitely going to be upper classmen-heavy. So this is the time. We have the guys who came in here with the expectation to win it all. That’s what they were recruited on, that’s what they were told, that’s still our goal. I think they’re hungry for it.”
He has good reason to believe; the stats don’t lie.
Last season, the team’s ERA went from 6.77 to 4.51, the fielding average went from .938 to .952 and the team total for stolen bases increased from 20 to 48.
“Obviously, you need to have guys who have power and who can stretch the field, but we like to build off speed and timely hitting,” Kinney said. “We want to be able to do the little things right.”
Kinney majored in economics and history at Whitman, so he knows the little things count. “I remember taking Prof. (Denise) Hazlitt’s Game Theory class and [Associate Professor of Economics Jan] Crouter’s Micro-economics class. We think about that a lot; how we can be the most efficient. I feel that helps reason through the situation, see the pros, see the cons, see the benefits and make a decision. On the history side of things, you have to know where you’ve been, and that gives you a better framework moving forward.”
Next season, Kinney plans to take Whitman’s success on the diamond even further. “Our biggest goal is we want to get into the playoffs. I want us to be at 30 wins. That’s a bold statement, that’s for sure, but that’s the goal.”
When asked if there was one phrase that would describe the team, Kinney said it would be this: “Never give in, and never give up.”