Sean Kinney ’05 was recently named head coach. He served As interim coach last season, and his team went 16-22, posting the most wins since 1975.
Whitman Magazine: What kind of club are you looking to build?
Sean Kinney: Pitching and defense are going to keep you in every game. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do. And we want our defense to work with the pitching staff. If we’ve shifted to right field for a right-handed hitter, we need to make sure we’re throwing away, so he’s going to hit it to our defense. I think that helped us a lot. The ERA went down by two runs a game this year, which is a huge step.
What about the offensive side of things?
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. We want to be able to do the little things right. I was a speed guy. We stole 20 bases two years ago; this year we stole 48 – with the same guys.
So you’re aggressive on the base paths.
I love it. Because you put the other team in a no-win situation, where you either have to throw fastballs to keep them from stealing, and the hitter wants fastballs. Or you have to throw off-speed pitches to keep the hitter off balance, but those are good ones to run on. A lot of good things happen when you can run and put pressure on the defense.
Who are going to be some players to watch this year?
Cam Young ’14 was fifth in the conference in hitting this year. He missed eight games with a concussion and a sprained wrist. He played second base for us, he had flawless defense in conference play, and he’s a great hitter. He’ll be a mainstay. 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 our closer this year. He went 2-0 with two saves. He’s been great at the back end for us. Kyle Moyes ’14, he hit seven homeruns this year to lead the league. We were able to work with him to get his average up and keep the power numbers up. Look for him to take a big step next year. Kyle Buckham ’14 had a huge year. He hit .219 the year before; he hit .315 this year. He stole 14 bags, which is
the most in 16 years for Whitman – even more than I did.
What’s your goal for next season?
It’s an exciting time. 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. … 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.
Who’s your favorite professional player?
That’s a tough question. Growing up, it was Griffey. I was from Seattle, and that was when we went on that run. From ’95 to ’97 we had good years. Griffey was a center fielder – that’s what I became, as well. He had no fear, but he also knew how to handle a stick. He was a left-handed hitter; I was left-handed. I would do the rock and everything. So he was my favorite player growing up. My dad’s favorite player was Ted Williams. And that’s why he had me hit left-handed.
You majored in economics and history at Whitman. Do you apply any of that in your coaching?
I remember taking Prof. (Denise) Hazlett’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 and make a decision. On the history side of things, I’m still a history nerd. I love diving in, seeing the way people thought about situations and seeing the way they went. You have to know where you’ve been, and that gives you a better framework moving forward.
What’s your philosophy?
So many coaches lose sight providing a good experience for everyone. You find people who have a passion for the game or who want to be a part of it. I love the game, and I want to share that with everybody. Obviously we have to make decisions on the field, but I want to provide the best experience I can.
Whitman’s first game is currently scheduled for Feb. 6, 2014, in Arizona.