Rainier High School senior and right-handed pitcher John Kenney has verbally committed to Panola College, located in Carthage, Texas, to play baseball.
Kenney had verbally committed to Lassen Community College in Susanville, California, but flipped his commitment when he received a full-ride scholarship offer from Panola College.
“I was pretty stoked. It was really a surprise to me,” Kenney said of receiving the offer from Panola College. “Not having to pay for college is really nice. It’ll be nice to play down in Texas. They have a really good program down there that I can make an impact on. I’m really excited to play for their coaching staff.”
Kenney, who has played baseball for over a decade, said he has always wanted to live in Texas as his sister lives there. He said he hopes that playing at a strong program like Panola College will give him the opportunity to garner interest from Division I baseball programs or potentially be drafted in the MLB draft, which are both long-term goals of his.
“It’s a dream to play baseball at the next level. Even though it is a junior college, it’s still a higher level of sports. I’ve always wanted to be in college to play baseball,” Kenney said.
Kenney has only been a pitcher for over a year as he mostly spent time in the outfield and first base.
He has played for the Rainier baseball program since he was in eighth grade and also plays for a travel team called EnFuego, coached by Steve Avila, a former Northwest scouting supervisor for the Cleveland Guardians.
Avila helped transform Kenney into a pitcher, helping him to increase his velocity by more than 10 miles per hour, as well as developing a changeup pitch.
“He saw a kid who was just a hitter with no pitching ability and changed me into a pitcher. He taught me better mechanics and made my curveball a lot better,” Kenney said of Avila.
Kenney also credited Rainier’s program for helping him get to the next level.
In his final season with the Mountaineers, he aims to help the team toward a state tournament run before graduating and moving to Texas in the summer.