Howie Kendrick: My turn to be a mentor
Being traded to the Phillies this off season made me one of the guys with the most major league experience in the clubhouse. Being a veteran player, everyone has pegged me as one of the leaders on the team. Being called a leader is somewhat of a new role for me. I’ve always been the type of player to lead by example and not be so vocal. I just want to be a source who guys feel comfortable coming to for information, whether it be about baseball or normal day-to-day struggles. Having been around the game, l’ve experienced the ups and downs over the years. I’ve also been lucky enough to play with quite a few veterans and strong leaders. Guys like Torii Hunter, Tim Salmon and Albert Pujols, and they all had something to offer.
One of the biggest turning points in my career was in 2009 when I opened the season with a .230 line through the month of April. That earned me a demotion to AAA Salt Lake City. Torii at the time reminded me that it was just another stepping stone and that once I returned this would make me a stronger and better player. He said it had happened to him with Minnesota. It gave me a sense of calm and I knew he was right. Having played with Torii, I can truly say his passion for the game and work ethic definitely rubbed off on me and numerous younger players. Torii understood what I was going through because he had been there himself; he had experienced my exact situation.
I’ve always treasured the information I received from the veteran players because they spoke from experience. They always assured me that I would be OK and that whatever I was experiencing would pass. Just watching how veteran players went about their business was a guideline in itself.
I think back to sitting on the bench my rookie year talking to Tim Salmon about game situations and learning how to prepare to pinch hit or when to be ready for a possible substitution into the game. Even just sitting around talking with Tim about the mental side of the game helped me. Having someone with so much experience to go to for advice is vital. When you’re a younger, you’re still trying to figure out who you are as a player.
Now I’m a veteran guy in a younger clubhouse and I feel honored to know that people think of me as someone who could be leader. Hopefully, I can use my experience to contribute to younger players similar to the way the guys who came before me passed along their knowledge. I hope that one day someone tells a story of me being a mentor or leader like Torii Hunter or Tim Salmon or Albert Pujols. I’m thankful to have had a chance to be around such veteran players and hopefully I can have the same impact on a few of my teammates.
SIDEBAR: Rummaging through the MLBPlayers.com video vault leads us to this gem from 2008 that features Howie Kendrick and Torii Hunter, titled “Laptop SportsBeat” and co-produced with the acclaimed Funny or Die creative team. Looking at it now, we realize the concept was ahead of its time. Enjoy!