Collegiate carrot lures Kinney from Eudora High
After five successful seasons and logging the Eudora baseball program's first trip to state in 2006, coach Dirk Kinney resigned late last week to become the pitching coach at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.
"I thought it'd be best," Kinney said. "I don't want to be one of those guys 15 years from now wondering what if I would have taken that job."
Kinney, who's spending the summer coaching an unrelated team of college players, said he's weighed offers for college positions over the last several seasons and had three such opportunities to consider this year. Still, he said it took the perfect storm of the right school, the right offer and the right time in his personal life to convince him Ouachita Baptist was the place for him.
Kinney was married earlier this summer, a change in his life which he said factored in.
"With getting married, I didn't push the subject too hard this summer," he said. "Then there were still three offers. With me being married and without kids, it's the right time. If I had kids, I probably wouldn't be able to make this move."
Kinney leaves a successful program -- his Cardinals won a Frontier League championship and lost only one regular season game in 2006, then carried on only to lose in the state championship game. He's heading to one, as well.
Scott Norwood, who just completed his third season at the school, coaches Ouachita Baptist. The Tigers had their most successful season since joining the NCAA Division 2 ranks in 1995, finishing the year with a 50-10 record.
Norwood coached at Sterling College for several years early in his career, and while he never coached Kinney, who played there, the pair got to know one another.
"I looked over the programs and talked to my wife about it," Kinney said. "I know coach Norwood is one of the top coaches in the nation. To be a pitching coach at one of the top five Division 2 programs is a great opportunity."
Kinney will encounter plenty of new challenges with his new job. He'll be in charge of recruiting Kansas and several other surrounding states, obviously something he didn't have to do at Eudora. He'll also need to ensure he can communicate and connect with college-aged kids as well as he did high school kids.
He's not worried, however. He said the most difficult part of the whole process so far hasn't had anything to do with his new gig. Rather, the worst thing was breaking the news to his returning Eudora players.
"That's tough, because you have kids that you ask to put in five hours a day all spring long," Kinney said. "They are good kids. This was an interesting spring, to say the least, but it showed me a little about their character."
Eudora finished Kinney's last season 12-6, a step down from the previous season's run through the state tournament. The Cardinals lost 10-0 to Bishop Ward in the semifinals of the Class 4A regional baseball tournament. Kinney was still selected as the area's top coach by the Lawrence Journal World, however, claiming the award for the second consecutive season.
"There were so many people that helped us be successful. Part of the reason why we were so successful was Mike Westerhouse, John Griffin, Steve Swanson, Mike Scott for making the summer program what it is today," Kinney said. "Marty Kobza (school superintendent) took a chance on me at 24 years old to be a head coach. He was my mentor when I was young, and he helped out a lot when I didn't have any family within a 16-hour car ride."
Still, he said he hasn't had second thoughts, and that he's excited for the next step.
"You have to take chances in life to be successful," he said. "We're taking the chance."