Will Kengor rekindles love for baseball with Somerset
Finding fulfillment can be a struggle when the passion dwindles away. After going through a rough stint in the minor league affiliates of the Detroit Tigers, infielder Will Kengor has found a new home and a rekindled love for baseball in Somerset.
Navigating life was admittedly hard for the 6-foot-3 product of Slippery Rock University, who said the grind of the season made him increasingly unhappy. It can’t be pinned on one individual or event during his time with the two teams, he just felt he wasn’t ready for what the long season entailed.
“It was tough to come to the field everyday. It’s hard to grind when you’re not loving what you do,” Kengor said. “In low-A we played 140 games, I played 90 the year before that.”
Kengor said he talked with his wife in that offseason and tossed around the topic of him not even playing again.
He spent time with triple-A Toledo and in Class A with the GCL Tigers all within the span of a year which preceded a one-year stint in 2015 with the West Michigan Whitecaps of the the Midwestern League.
From there, Kengor found himself playing for Traverse City Beach Bums (currently the Spitters,) of the Frontier League where he spent three seasons and was anything but a bum.
In 2017, Kengor led the team in batting average, OPB, slugging and doubles. He was also named an all-star in each campaign there.
“The time in Traverse was invaluable to me,” Kengor said. “There were a really good group of older guys who had a bit more experience in professional ball and were willing to go help me out. That time in Traverse brought back love of the game and I think I found my stride.”
For Kengor personally, his time in Traverse City holds a great deal of meaning to him. He moved into an Airbnb apartment and got engaged and married his wife who he met in college. He also keeps in touch with his former skipper Dan Rohn, who he said acts as a baseball advisor to him. He said people in Traverse City made it feel like a second home for the Pittsburgh native.
In his final year with the Beach Bums in 2017, Kengor assumed a player/coach role helping his teammates improve their swing. There were some struggles with that experience to which he laughed off the possibility of taking on that responsibility ever again.
“The hardest part [of being a player-coach] was the fact that you’re on the hook for more than just your at-bats,” Kengor said. “From a relationship standpoint with the hitters, that was the best part. The fact that they trusted me and let me work with them and tell them what I saw – I thought we had a really open dialog and I think that’s important in a hitting coach.”
Somerset acquired the 26-year-old via trade from the Milwaukee Milkmen of the American Association and since the start of the 2019 campaign, Kengor’s success has not gone unnoticed. Seventh-year Manager Brett Jodie was impressed with Kengor right from the get-go.
“I thought he had a good year in A-ball with the Tigers, he’s shown he has some power in three years in the Frontier League,” Jodie said. “Usually you can tell the type of athlete you have within the first day or two. I remember day one he was powering balls all across the field. He can hit [against] lefties, righties and whatever you throw at him.”
Jodie was also amused by his experience as player/coach and said it shows a good character and that Kengor, “has a good head on his shoulders.”
“I think he keeps the game pretty simple and he has been huge for us. We didn’t know where he’d actually play or how he’d do. He doesn’t really show a weakness against lefties or righties which is pretty good to be that high in the order and be an RBI producer. I’m very excited about what he has been doing and what the future has in store for him.”
In addition to sporting the league’s best average at .477 (21-for-44,) Kengor ranks in the top-10 in hits and RBI and is tied for fourth in runs scored with 10. In 44 plate appearances, he has only been fanned a remarkable seven times.
Although his time with Somerset has been short, Kengor believes his passion for the game has been restored and is stronger than ever before.
“100 percent,” Kengor said through a grin. “I think I started to find [my passion] in Traverse City, and them coming here; the level of baseball, the city, the guys who are here; I think it makes it easy to fall in love with this place. When I came back, definitely something changed and I’m glad I can come to the ballpark everyday and enjoy myself.”
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