Former VHS baseball player Kendrick gets shot with independent league

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, November 25, 2017

All Darius Kendrick wants is an opportunity.

He’s driven hundreds of miles for it. He’s gone to different schools seeking it. And, in a couple of months, he’ll head west to see if he can find it.

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The former Vicksburg High baseball player has gotten an offer to participate in spring training with the Arizona Desert League. It’s an independent league designed to help undrafted players or those that have been released by pro teams — players like Kendrick — gain some exposure and hopefully a shot with a Major League Baseball or international team.

“It’s just an opportunity to play pro ball in general. I’m not done playing, for sure, the 23-year-old Kendrick said. “I’ve gotten phone calls from other independent leagues. I’m strong. The game is never over when you’ve got power, and I swing with the best of them.”

Baseball has been a part of Kendrick’s life almost since he could walk.

He started playing when he was 5, and his family has had success in the game. His older brother Clyde was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2015 and is a pitcher in their minor league organization.

Darius, however, has had a journeyman career. After hitting .429 in his senior season with Vicksburg in 2013, he played for five different college programs — Holmes and Coahoma Community Colleges in Mississippi, Jefferson Davis Community College in Alabama, Louisiana College and Selma University.

He hit .293 with one home run and 22 RBIs and also had six outfield assists in his best season, in 2016 with Jefferson Davis.

“I got to experience every kind of baseball,” Kendrick said. “All of those are very different from each other. I’ve seen guys get drafted and take offers, and I feel like I can play with all of those guys.”

Kendrick didn’t get drafted, or get offers, however. As a prospect with raw talent but not much pedigree or buzz from a major program, the outfielder had to work a little harder to get noticed by going to open tryout camps and showcases over the summer.

He said the Miami Marlins showed some interest at a camp in Nashville, until his 60-yard dash time came in slower than either of them hoped.

“Speed has always been my downfall. If I can go and run a 6.7 (second 60-yard dash), that would probably be good enough to get noticed. Defensively, I’m fine. I’m above average. Speed is what I have to work and train the hardest at,” he said.

The Arizona Desert League, however, liked what it saw. It reached out to him with an opportunity that’s far from guaranteed but is still a chance.

Kendrick will report to Chandler, Ariz., for the ADL’s five-day spring training camp in mid-January.

The four-team league plays games from January through March, and has a minimum of 48 spots reserved for rookies. A total of 76 players signed with minor league teams after last year’s ADL season, most with independent teams in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“It’s every kid’s dream. What kid doesn’t want to play pro ball after playing for 20 years? Mu job is to take advantage of it. Swing hard and see what happens,” Kendrick said. “The scouts are going to be there. Now my game plan is not to make a team in the Desert League, but to have a team pick me up in those first five days.”

Kendrick also thanked several local businesses and individuals such as David and Rhonda Day, Holly Ellis, Robbie Briggs and Brett Albright who sponsored him to make the trip to Arizona and helped him chase his dreams.

“It definitely gets expensive. You don’t sign anything until you get there and show them what you can do,” Kendrick said. “You need supporters, and that’s what I’m grateful for with Vicksburg. It’s good to have your hometown support you and be behind you.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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