Nick Kenney

Athletic Training , ’94

World Series was ‘dream come true’ for AT grad

Nick Kenney recalls being among the many generations of boys that have dreamed about playing in the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals or World Cup Championship. The roar of the capacity crowds, the drama of a Game 7, unforgettable heroics — this year’s Fall Classic, the Kansas City Royals versus San Francisco Giants, had it all.

And he was there.

Kenney was part of the Royals’ improbable rise to the pinnacle of the sport as the team’s head athletic trainer.

“You sit there as a child and envision yourself being there,” said the 1994 Wilmington College graduate in athletic training.

Winners“It was surreal. It was amazing. It was a dream come true.”

He was an assistant trainer with Cleveland when the Indians lost in Game 7 of the American League Championship in 2007, but this year’s experience was different, as the Royals staged an exciting, late-season rally to make the playoffs as a wild card team, and then go undefeated in capturing the American League pennant.

The Royals-Giants World Series became an instant classic.

“I saw it through different eyes this time — it was incredible,” Kenney said in alluding to his added responsibilities of being a head trainer. “So many unbelievable things happened over a month and you can’t believe it’s happening. You get dumbfounded.”

Kenney said the Royals’ 2014 journey proves that amazing results can occur if a team peaks at the right time.

“We knew we had great pitching and defense, and, if our offense turned on, we knew we could do something big,” he said. “And our young guys grew up in a hurry.”

That perfect storm — which included having a healthy team during that late-season push — catapulted Kansas City into the World Series.

LineUpKenney spoke of the “electricity” evident in both ballparks as the teams slugged out alternating wins. While the Giants are a modern-day baseball dynasty, postseason drama was a new experience for Kansas City whose last World Series appearance was 30 seasons ago in 1985. Indeed, in recent years, the region hasn’t had much to cheer about from its sports teams other than the Kansas Jayhawks in basketball.

“It was fun to see over the course of five years the organization rebuild the brand,” he said. “I remember a conversation centered on, ‘What would it be like to watch meaningful baseball in this ballpark?’”

Kenney recalled attending the Kansas City Chiefs’ rout of New England Sept. 29 at which the football fans chanted, “Let’s go Royals!”

“I had goose-bumps. It was amazing,” he added, reveling in how the Royals’ play-off run galvanized pride for all things Kansas City. “This was really great for the city, the community.”

Kenney shared a recent conversation he had with his 14-year-old son, Nathan, who, still captivated from the excitement of the Series and seeing his dad regularly on national television, said he might like to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a head trainer for a major professional sports team.

Nathan said, “I think what you do is really cool. I like that you have fun with what you do.”

Kenney impressed upon his son how rare those high-profile opportunities are, yet they are indeed possible, as evidenced by Kenney’s position in Major League Baseball and that of fellow Wilmington College alumni Paul Sparling (’81), the longtime Cincinnati Bengals’ head trainer, and Russell Miller (’66), retired head trainer with the Detroit Tigers.

He issued this advice for both his son and those current and future athletic training students with visions of big-time sports.

“If it’s something you love to do, go for it, but be diligent and extremely flexible,” he said, noting that being a good student at a school with a top-notch AT program like WC is a given. “Make contacts. All of the things I am able to do now are the result of being around very good people.

“You have to know somebody. It’s a recommendation here, a recommendation there and how you use that opportunity.”

Nick-HomePlateKenney’s career trajectory, following his internship with the Cincinnati Reds and graduation from Wilmington College, included working with Clinton Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Services, head trainer with the Cincinnati Cyclones, two years as an assistant trainer with the Reds and five with the Indians before he attained the head trainer position in Kansas City five years ago.

“It’s all about chasing a dream.”

Not only did Wilmington College athletic training faculty, staff, students and alumni follow Kenney and the Royals throughout the playoffs, Reds physician Timothy Kremchek, M.D., did as well. He noted how he’s known Kenney since his days with the Cyclones and Reds.

“He’s a true professional in his field and a role model for all athletic trainers aspiring to reach the professional sports rank,” Kremchek said in describing Kenney as a class act and family man.

“He deserves all the success he is enjoying this year with the Royals. It is also very exciting that he is a graduate of the great athletic training program at Wilmington College — a testament to the quality of the school, faculty and AT program.”