Whitman Promotes Baseball Assistant to Head Coaching Spot

News Release Date:
Monday, June 4, 2012

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Sean Kinney, one of the top young coaches in the Pacific Northwest, has been named interim head coach of the Whitman College baseball program.

Kinney, who had served as an assistant coach at Whitman since his graduation from the school in 2005, replaces Jared Holowaty, who resigned earlier this month.

Sean Kinney

Kinney, 29, an All-Northwest Conference center fielder during his playing days at Whitman, is also starting his third summer as head coach of the Bend Elks, a member of the West Coast League (WCL).

The WCL, which includes the Walla Walla Sweets, is a nine-team league that provides summer playing opportunities for some of the top college players in the country.

"This opportunity to be the head coach at Whitman is obviously a dream come true for me," Kinney says. "As someone who played for Whitman, I can say that no one cares more about this program and its student athletes than I do.

"I've started putting together a coaching staff, and our first priority is to have a strong Whitman presence this summer and fall at several high school tournaments and camps on the West Coast. It's critical to the future success of our program to continue with the greater emphasis Whitman has placed on recruiting over the past few years.

"Once the school year begins in September, we will do everything we can to help our student athletes as they work to achieve their potential, both on the diamond and in the classroom."

Dean Snider, director of athletics at Whitman, plans to conduct a national search over the next year before filling the head baseball coaching position on a more permanent basis. Kinney will be a candidate for the permanent position.

"Sean has been one of the most valued members of our department for as long as I've been the athletic director," Snider says.

Dean Snider

"Sean is a young man with a tremendous depth of character and talent," Snider says. "He is well respected by players on the team and other coaches throughout the greater baseball community. I could not be more pleased that Sean has agreed to take on this new role."

Kinney compiled a 67-50 win-loss record over the past two summers as head coach of the Bend Elks. Both of his teams made the WCL playoffs and his 2010 squad played for the league title.

Kinney also posted two winning seasons as head coach of the Bend Bucks, a second summer team sponsored by the Bend Baseball Club. He led the Bucks (younger players) to a combined 42-34 record in 2008 and 2007. His 2008 Bucks were 14-7 in league play, finishing second.

Kinney's resume also has two summers as an assistant coach in Bend.

Jim Richards, owner/general manager of the Bend Baseball Club, applauded Snider's decision to "promote" Kinney to Whitman's head coaching position.

"Sean has 10 years of Whitman baseball experience at all the right levels -- from student athlete to assistant coach and department employee," Richards says. "Successful management decisions are made by promoting from within an organization.

"As a former student, Sean knows the level of academic focus it takes to be an athlete at Whitman," Richards added. "As a former assistant coach, he knows what it takes to teach players the game within the parameters provided by the athletic program.

Jim Richards

"Now, as the head coach, Sean knows the college, its baseball program and the Northwest Conference as well as anyone. He knows what it takes to be competitive and move that program forward."

Kinney's years as a player and coach with the Bend Elks have enhanced his place in the Northwest baseball ranks and can only help with his recruiting at Whitman, Richards says. "Sean roamed the outfield for the Elks with Jacoby Ellsbury (now with the Boston Red Sox), and he coached current Oakland A's infielder Eric Sogard along with many other NCAA athletes who continued into professional baseball."

Kinney, a native of the Edmonds and Kenmore (Wash.) communities, is a graduate of Seattle's Bishop Blanchet High School, where he was a three-year varsity starter in the outfield and at second base. He was team captain and MVP as a senior, and he was twice named to the All-Metro First Team.

Kinney played the role of Lou Gehrig's Iron Horse at Whitman, taking the field in every game over four seasons while starting all but one game. He collected 197 career hits while posting a .360 batting average. He led Whitman in hits and runs scored in each of his four seasons, and he topped the team three times in stolen bases, walks and on-base percentage.

Kinney enjoyed his best season as a junior, when he finished third in the NWC batting race with a .396 batting average over the entire season. He hit .408 in 24 NWC games that season.

Kinney finished his senior campaign with a .381 batting average -- the sixth-best mark in the conference that season.

He was voted to the All-NWC First Team as a both a junior and senior while serving as a team captain for both seasons. He received Honorable Mention recognition as a freshman after hitting .331 as a rookie.

Sean Kinney: Superb center fielder

Kinney was also a superb defender in center field, playing a string of 90 consecutive games at one point without making an error. That streak spanned all or parts of all four seasons.

After making an error midway through his freshman season, Kinney went nearly three full years before committing another miscue in the outfield. His run of perfection ended midway through his senior season.

Kinney played one game at shortstop as a junior and then logged 11 more games at that position as a senior, primarily to help solidify what was a young Whitman infield.

In addition to his spring ball at Whitman, Kinney played two summers with the Bend Elks. He and Ellsbury were teammates in 2002 and he was part of the Bend's 2004 title run. Kinney also played one summer (2003) with the Everett Merchants.

Kinney, who majored in economics at Whitman with a minor in history, says his recruiting efforts will focus on finding the "best student athletes from all around the country. Finding those players takes time and effort, but we plan to hit the showcase tournaments and camps hard while also establishing quality contacts with high school and summer ball coaches."

Given its NCAA Division III affiliation and status as the premier liberal arts college in the Northwest, Whitman offers an "extremely unique and very valuable experience" to its student-athletes, Kinney says.

"There's no question that Whitman's combination of outstanding academic and athletic programs go hand-in-hand in developing future leaders. What we teach in athletics are life lessons. What we build is character that can help our young people be successful for the rest of their lives."

Kinney: Hitting .360 over four seasons

Kinney says he feels fortunate to have learned from Whitman's two previous head coaches (Holowaty and Casey Powell) as well as from his coaching mentors in Bend (Powell, Donny Harwell and Nate Pratt).

"People like Dean Snider and Jim Richards have also been a huge help as I've worked to get ready for my first head coaching position in the college ranks," he adds.

As Kinney eyes his program's immediate future, he knows that Whitman returns the bulk of its roster for next year.

"We're in a great position in that we have a talented group of returners who are hungry to improve," Kinney says. "We need to improve in all facets of the game, but we have the players with the drive to get that done.

"Whitman also has the best facilities in the conference, not to mention the best weather, and an incredibly supportive campus environment that helps student athletes achieve their goals. 

Extra Innings: Kinney is the 16th baseball coach at Whitman since the legendary R.V. Borleske took the coaching reins in the spring of 1916 ... Borleske kept coaching until 1947 (except for breaks during the two World Wars) and won 11 conference titles ...Other than Borleske, the longest-tenured Whitman baseball coach was the late Max Seachris, who called the shots from 1978 through 1995 ... Like Kinney, both Borleske and Seachris were standout athletes at Whitman before moving into coaching ...

Kinney is the fifth head coach from the Bend Elks program in 12 years to move into a collegiate head coaching position ... Kinney gives the nine-team Northwest Conference three relatively young baseball coaches ... Aaron Swick, who graduated from Cal-Berkeley in 2005 -- the same year Kinney graduated from Whitman -- is starting his fifth year as the head coach at Willamette ... Dan Ramsey, who was hired at Whitworth at age 22 after graduating from that school in 2008, is also starting his fifth year as the Pirates skipper.

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu