Column by Kris Henry: If ever there was an A-plus paper set to be written, it would have to be Ian Kendall's version of the ever popular "What I did over the summer" assignment educators utilize to help spur pen to paper.
If ever there was an A-plus paper set to be written, it would have to be Ian Kendall's version of the ever popular "What I did over the summer" assignment educators utilize to help spur pen to paper.
Instead of lounging at the pool, he was busy laying out for line drives hit into left field at Harry & David Field.
Instead of running through TV channels, Kendall was running around the bases as one of the most productive players for the national runner-up Medford Mustangs.
Instead of watching people come and go at the mall, Kendall found himself to be the focal point of one very influential person in the baseball community.
All those summer experiences appear to have paid off for the Ashland High senior, who officially signed to play baseball next fall at Oregon State University over the weekend. Kendall is part of a 12-player class signed for the 2011 season.
"I'm just ecstatic about it," Kendall said Monday of securing his future in Corvallis. "It definitely is a very big weight off my shoulders knowing I will be playing for them next year."
Anyone who followed the American Legion season this summer knows Kendall's decision really isn't that much of a surprise. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound standout has long since shown the skills to compete at the Division I level, and Oregon State head coach Pat Casey had more than enough visual proof that Kendall would be a good fit for his program. Casey came to Medford and watched Kendall play on numerous occasions, and kept tabs on the recruit through Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger when unable to attend the games.
"They came down almost every game so they showed me their commitment and that really put them over the edge," said Kendall of Casey and various staff members on hand this summer. "Just getting to know the coaches after they came down and saw me for my games and the winning tradition they've had up at Oregon State in the past few years, it all made it a pretty easy decision."
Kendall lead the Mustangs with a .420 batting average and 13 home runs entering the American Legion World Series to go with 59 RBIs, 50 runs and 17 doubles. He also served as one of the team's top relief pitchers thanks to a fastball that clocks around 90 miles per hour. Given the team's glut of incredible starting pitching, Kendall wasn't called upon too much in that role, but it's there should the Beavers need it.
"They said that they want me to be kind of a utility player, to pitch and hit," Kendall said of his future at OSU.
"Their hope for me is to become a third baseman for them and throw in relief."
All that is music to Kendall's ears. He enjoys the one-on-one matchups that pitching offers, and although he hasn't put in much time as an infielder, he's more than happy to make the switch. The last time Kendall played third base was for the Ashland Pilots in the summer of his sophomore year.
"It's actually my favorite position," said Kendall, who turned 18 last week. "I've always loved it and enjoyed playing it. It's just in that state championship year in 2008, left field was the only option because all the other positions were filled. I think I did a fine job out there and I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team, and that meant playing left field."
Kendall said he hopes to gain experience at third base this spring for the Grizzlies and possibly after that with the Mustangs. He's currently rated the No. 6 player in the state by Baseball Northwest.
"But ultimately it's going to be the coaches' decision and whatever they want me to do will be fine," he added. "I just want to try to help Ashland win another state title and do anything I can to help coach Kensinger and the Mustangs."
Kendall was the Southern Sky Conference player of the year this past baseball season, batting .478 with six homers and 28 RBIs for the Grizzlies. He also sported a 1.36 ERA and 6-1 record for Ashland.
He'll join former Ashland standout Sam Gaviglio at Oregon State, and Kendall credited his former teammate with helping show him around the campus and giving him insight into the Beaver program to help form his decision.
Grants Pass High shortstop Brandon Drury is also part of the 2011 class signed Monday by Casey, who released a statement heralding the multi-purpose strengths of the incoming class and need for an immediate impact from the group.
"Both this year's recruiting class, and next year's, we will need players to come in and play immediately due to the numbers lost to the draft," he said.
Kendall will be part of a scholarship signing ceremony at 4 p.m. today in the principal's office at Ashland High School.
Also signing their college letter of intent will be: Allison Gida, a 5-10 all-state point guard who previously gave her verbal commitment to the women's basketball team at Utah last March; and Niki Small, a 6-1 middle blocker who helped the Grizzlies place third at the 5A volleyball state tournament last Saturday and will be signing to play at Northern Arizona.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.