Kevin McKenna’s name is synonymous with baseball in Bedeque.
He has served in numerous roles with the sport for nearly 30 years. His reason is simple.
“Nothing brings you more joy than seeing the kids (play),” he said with a heartfelt smile.
McKenna, a senior advisor with the Bedeque Area Minor Baseball Association, has given hours upon hours to ensure that happens. For those efforts, he was recently recognized as the ADL volunteer administrator of the year at the Sport P.E.I. awards, capping off a 2019 that also saw him earn the Baseball Canada/MLB volunteer of the year award.
“It’s very humbling,” the Central Bedeque resident said, deflecting the credit. “Behind every good organization, there’s a lot of good volunteers,” he added, noting Brian Rogers was his right-hand man for many years.
McKenna thanked his family, particularly his wife Cathy, for supporting him as he helped ensure kids in the community could be active in sport. He said he was honoured his name was put forward for the prestigious honour and hoped others would nominate more deserving people in the years to come.
Baseball P.E.I. executive director Randy Byrne said McKenna is a humble man who gives of himself for the betterment of others.
“The amount he works is unbelievable,” he said. “If it wasn't for the likes of Kevin, I don't think baseball in the Bedeque area, for example, would be nearly as strong today as it is.”
The association’s origins date back to 1993 when the Toronto Blue Jays were winning the second of their back-to-back World Series crowns.
McKenna was one of the driving forces, along with Ross Campbell and Mike Pearson, in the association being formed.
“I thought there was a great opportunity in our own community to promote baseball,” McKenna said. “We sat around a table one evening and said, let’s do this – let’s bring baseball to Bedeque.”
It started small with a handful of kids at the tee ball level and grew through the years with as many as 175 kids hitting the diamond, adjacent to the community's rink, one season. A baseball field in Freetown was built in the early 2000s to give the older players a place to play as they progressed through minor ball.
The association has produced some top-notch ballplayers in recent years in guys like pitching brothers Jordan and John Patrick (J.P.) Stevenson, plus utility players Grant Grady and Morgan Murphy. J.P. pitched in Germany a year ago while the other three played with the Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islanders senior squad.
“It really, really makes me feel super proud,” McKenna said to see them still playing.
Grady said as long as he’s been playing, McKenna has been involved in some form.
“Kevin has really done it all. … He’s kind of been the heartbeat of that organization,” said the 24-year-old.
“I know there are lots of great organizations and organizers out there around Canada, but really Kevin probably could have won this award four or five different times for the amount of work he does,” he said. “He just kind of does it quietly and makes sure everything is done correctly, so it’s nice to see him finally get national and provincial recognition for the work he’s done for all these years.”
McKenna watched his four sons (Patrick, Ryan, Matthew and Daniel) grow up and play sports in the community. After they aged out of minor ball, he felt a void and wanted to give back, so he started umpiring. That is where many people would know McKenna from, officiating both baseball and hockey. McKenna, who was recognized as Baseball P.E.I.’s official of the year in 2013, is the treasurer with the P.E.I. Baseball Umpires Association and has been lending his support to the Islanders.
“I still have that desire to help out,” he said.
A look at the previous 10 recipients of the ADL volunteer administrator of the year award.
2018 Natalie Bulger, rugby.
2017 Brenda Millar, volleyball.
2016 Lori Lund, soccer.
2015 Mike James, ringette.
2014 Justin Ellis, rugby.
2013 Derek MacEwen, curling.
2012 Bob Bentley, biathlon.
2011 Jamie Mutch, running
2010 Mary Ellen McInnis, figure skating.
2009 Mark Bowlan, cycling.