Heath Kennedy feels like he’s back where he was meant to be.
In 2011, he led Hebron Christian Academy’s baseball team to its first state championship. After leaving the Lions in 2012, he’d bounced around four different schools looking for the right fit. The place for him turned out to be pretty similar to the one he originally left.
“Looking back on my career, I’ve always seemingly done a little bit better in private school education,” he said. “That’s where my heart is.”
Kennedy will now look to bring the same success he brought to Hebron to Pinecrest Academy, with the school announcing his hire on Monday afternoon. Kennedy is coming off a one-year stint as an assistant at George Walton Academy, which came after another year as the head coach at Flowery Branch.
“The baseball knowledge was above and beyond – that’s obvious when you see his resume,” Pinecrest athletic director Chris Kane said of Kennedy. “When you meet him and you find out the kind of man he is, the kind of father he is, the kind of husband he is, he’s the kind of person I want our boys around.”
The current state of Pinecrest’s program – the Paladins are coming off an appearance in the state quarterfinals – as well as the reputation of baseball in Forsyth County as a whole, made the opportunity tough to ignore for Kennedy. He already has a connection with the area, with Denmark athletic director and former Lambert baseball coach Jamie Corr being one of Kennedy’s former coaches during his playing days at Augusta State.
“(There’s) obviously a lot of tradition at Pinecrest, and it’s a great baseball community,” Kennedy said. “The leadership was really attractive, with Chris Kane and Dr. (David) Spurka coming in as the new head of school. It seems like there’s a lot of positive things going on there.”
At Flowery Branch, Kennedy had the chance to lead a Class 5A program, but had to do so with a teaching position that didn’t fit him well.
The Pinecrest head coaching job opened up after Kennedy’s season at George Walton. He wasn’t originally looking to force his way out so soon again, but the itch to be a head coach again resurfaced.
“In the past, I think I’ve been a little bit hesitant sometimes to pursue something,” Kennedy said. “I’ve had some relationships with people that have been in baseball for a long time and college coaches and even some scouts, and they said, ‘If you want an opportunity, you need to make sure to let these people know that you want it.’”
So Kennedy decided to go all in. He applied and constantly followed up on emails and phone calls to Pinecrest and routinely checked in on how the search was going. He even told Corr about it, who put a good word for him as well.
The Paladins were impressed by Kennedy’s resume and by his enthusiasm about the position, but were initially hesitant due to his short stints at two consecutive jobs. One conversation was all it took to put those concerns to rest.
“There were definitely some red flags, but that’s why you want to talk to the person and find out what’s the situation,” Kane said. “There’s always a story behind everything — being in education is crazy sometimes. It’s about finding that right fit. I understand where he was coming from. We don’t hold him jumping around against him.”
With no teaching positions currently open at Pinecrest, Kennedy will be a community coach until a position opens up for him. In any case, he hopes his second chance to coach a Class 1A-private school turns out much like his last one did.
“We all talked about what it takes to win a championship,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t just happen — there’s a lot of things along the way. You’ve got to get some breaks and some bounces, but I hope to be able to bring some experience.”