Kinney lighting fire under Cardinal team
The Eudora Cardinals head baseball coach Dirk Kinney has taken his program to another level. In two seasons as head coach, the Cards are an impressive 32-10.
It seems the nomadic young coach has finally found a home.
Kinney signed with Murray State (Kentucky) out of high school. But circumstances arose, and shortly after, Kinney transferred to a junior college.
Eventually the future coach landed at Sterling College, near Hutchinson.
After four years with the Warriors, Kinney attempted a professional career in independent league baseball. But he blew out his elbow six weeks into the program.
He spent that summer coaching baseball in Lyons, which changed his life and ultimately the landscape of Eudora athletics.
Kinney led his Lyons summer squad to the state championship game where he lost a tough 4-3 contest to Joe Pyle and Rod Moyer's gang. Pyle and Moyer, well-known fixtures in the Eudora sports community, laid the foundation for Kinney's eventual hire.
Kinney interviewed the following summer after a year with Lyons High School.
He began in the fall of 2000 as the Cardinal pitching coach. Two years later, he was leading the program.
"I owe (Moyer and Pyle) a lot for me being here," Kinney said. "I know I'll never hear the end of losing to them in that championship, though."
Moyer and Pyle deserve much of the credit for getting Kinney to Eudora. But his high school coach deserves much of the credit for getting Kinney into coaching.
"My high school coach was a huge role model for me," Kinney said. "He was a great person in every aspect. That's what started it.
"And then I started helping with the kids during the summer in high school. And that's what started it too."
Kinney took over a respectable, albeit mediocre, team in his first season as Cardinal head coach.
It didn't take long for Kinney to infuse his demanding hard-nosed style into the hungry program. After only one season, he had Eudora exploding on the baseball scene with a brow-raising 14-5 record.
Kinney prepared for his second season with expectations approaching an all-time high, and he greeted those expectations with open arms. The Cards completed the 2004 season with the region's top record at 18-5.
Eudora's new coach humbly credits his team's success to the players' collective work ethics.
"The kids put in so much time," Kinney said. "Not only in the spring, but they really get better during the summer.
"I expect a lot from them, and they know it. They've bought into what we're trying to do, and we've been successful so far."
Kinney expects a lot from his team, but he isn't asking for that much.
"If you play the game with respect and effort, you'll be successful," Kinney said. "I want the kids to be good, well-rounded individuals away from the baseball field, too."
The Cardinals are exceeding expectations and goals at a blistering pace. But one prize has thus far eluded Kinney's kids.
"There's always one token trophy you want," Kinney said. "And it's the goal going into every season -- to win state.
"We get closer every year, and hopefully we'll get to the show next year and accomplish some more things."
That begins for players and coaches alike during the summer. Kinney is no exception. He's sacrificed his free time to help lead the Midwest Rebels, a 16-and-under summer team.
He eats, sleeps and breathes the game he loves. It's all he's ever known.
"Growing up, I had a ball field in my backyard," Kinney said. "It's one of those things -- it's always been around."
So what does he do when he's not coaching baseball?
"I don't really have any time to do anything else," Kinney said. "But if I had some free time, I'd enjoy it golfing or bowling.
"I enjoy spending time with the other coaches also. Our coaching staff is a pretty close-knit bunch of people."
Why not? Coaches like to associate themselves with winners.
Eventually Kinney would like to parlay his current success into a collegiate coaching career or perhaps even join the administrative ranks as an athletic director.
But for now he's dedicated to the Eudora Cardinal family, the business of winning baseball games and producing champions of character.