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Baseball thick as blood in Kerns family

April 16, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - Dan Kerns spent 20 years as the head baseball coach at Hancock High School.

While sons Mick and Brian were growing up, moving through their teenage years and into adulthood, Dan probably knew baseball was always going to be in the family bloodlines.

What probably wasn't envisioned was a day in the future when both of them would be high school baseball coaches, let alone on the same diamond about to send their teams against one another for the first time.

That scenario came to fruition on Thursday when Brian's Hancock team rallied to post a 12-11, eight-inning win over Mick's St. James team.

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"It's weird playing at Hancock and being on the third base side and now to be on the first base side," said Mick, 35, now in his eighth season at St. James. "With this being Brian's first year, I figured this would happen some time."

Brian Kerns was named coach at Hancock in February, just over a year after his father ended his 20-year coaching stint at his hometown school.

Thursday's game was not scheduled at the beginning of the season, but each team was looking for a game and a compatible open date made it possible.

"If we win and play well, that's fine and if they win and play well, that's fine, too," Mick said before the game commenced.

Both grew up playing baseball and graduated from Hancock, Mick in 1988 and Brian in 1990. Each received a scholarship and pursued his interest in college baseball at the University of Alabama.

"It was tough growing up as the younger brother because you wanted to follow in his footsteps," said Brian, 33. "But in some respects it might have been easier because of what I learned from him. I wanted to be successful in the things he did."

Mick played four years at Alabama and was drafted by the California Angels. He spent one year at short-season Class A Boise, Idaho, and a second year in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before he was released.

He had an opportunity to restart his journey to the pros in the Northwest League in St. Paul, Minn., where he played with John Lowery Jr., the first-year Martinsburg baseball coach, before his playing days came to an end in 1996. He returned to college and graduated that same year.

Brian played at Alabama for three years before a pair of knee injuries and a broken foot ended his college baseball career.

"We had the dreams of the big leagues," Brian said. "We had a great teacher in our father. Dad instilled a work ethic in us with a true love for baseball."

The kids were so involved with baseball that Brian Kerns even showed up for his senior prom - following a practice - in his baseball uniform.

"I think Dad had two baseball gloves for me when I was born," Mick said. "I don't know if I had much choice but to play baseball. It was a matter of falling in love with the game. He was always there to push, but always there with a pat on the back at the end of a game."

It's hard to say when Mick will have a chance to even the score on the field with his younger brother. But winning or losing won't affect their relationship in the least.

"It's exciting to be here facing him," Brian said. "You know, it's brother against brother and it matters who wins because we're competitors, but among anything else, we're friends on and off the field."

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