Recruits and Prospects
As most baseball fans know, the travel team industry continues to grow unfettered by dire economic times. This phenomenon has produced countless opportunities for young players with big ambitions. Nine year-old Kenneth Coste, a Mercer County product who began playing organized baseball at the age of five, reflects this trend.
Proud father, Edwin, notes that Kenneth “had a knack for the game right from a young age. He only played one year in T-Ball; they skipped him because he was throwing too hard.” So at age five Kenneth found himself playing on teams of 8 and 9 year-olds. Today, four years later, as a pitcher and a shortstop in the league, “they call him the best player in the Hamilton Little Lads,” his dad continues.
There must be something to that, because his Hamilton As travel team has won six tournaments in the past two years, and Kenneth has received his league’s Cy Young award for his performances on the mound. Winning his league’s best pitcher award, had a special significance, because he won it “on his birthday, July 5th.” In addition, he received his team’s recognition as Most Valuable Player (MVP) as well as the 2010 Silver Slugger Award for having the highest batting average on the team.
His team has traveled as far away as Maryland to play in the Cal Ripken tournament, the LBI tournament here in New Jersey, the “War in the Woods” tournament in Atlantic County, and the East Brunswick tournament. “Everywhere they go they win,” Edwin says; although, they did finish as runners-up in Cal Ripken, District 2.
In his second season with the Little Lads and the As, Kenneth contributes to a total team effort no matter what position he plays. His versatility makes him a valuable addition to any team that has him on its roster, and he plays every position with equal amounts of intensity and skill. He cites pitcher, catcher, and shortstop as his favorite positions to play. He likes to catch because he enjoys “throwing out runners.” He likes to play shortstop because at that position he “gets lots of ground balls.”
He credits his dad with teaching him the fundamentals of the game. “My dad taught me to pitch,” he says with a gleam in his eye. “He showed me how to throw a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seam fastball, a changeup, and a cutter.”
NJB Magazine does not know if Cy Young possessed a similar arsenal of pitches at the tender age of nine years-old, but it’s a sure bet that Kenneth will not only continue to win with that combination but also increase his repertoire as he gets older. For the foreseeable future, he will simply have to content himself with helping lead his team to one tournament victory after another and winning the Cy Young award on a consistent basis. Somehow we believe that’s a sure bet all around.
Present-day players whom he names as his favorites include Tim Linceum, Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowintzki, Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, and Jose Reyes. “Tim Lincecum won the Cy Young award two years in a row, just like me, and he had the most strikeouts, and Ubaldo Jimenez had a 1.15 ERA and the most wins in baseball.” He watches the best at their craft and tries to learn from them.
Kenneth complements his team leadership skills on the field with appreciation for his teammates off the field. He credits all his teammates with playing well to earn all those victories, but he singles out his friends Timmy Sharply, Mikey Vitella, and Sean Guerrero who “play good and hit good and are good teammates.” No doubt, they would say the same about him.
Kenneth prides himself on being a student of the game. He understands that good players “know game situations” and what strategy different game situations call for. He also knows that effective hitting requires that you “wait for your good pitch (and that) 2-strike hitting” separates the contenders from the pretenders.
NJB Magazine wishes Kenneth and his teammates continued success as they grow and play together. As the Hamilton Little Lads prepared to host the 2010 Cal Ripken tournament, Kenneth expressed confidence that the As could miss win it all. With a Silver Slugger MVP in the batter’s box and a Cy Young award winner taking the mound, we would not bet against it.