With one resounding ding off the right field foul pole at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Howie Kendrick solidified his status as a Washington Nationals legend.
Kendrick came to the plate in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. He swung at a pitch down and away. And he watched as that ball tailed and tailed before clanging off the foul pole for a two-run home run, the go-ahead knock that gave Washington control in the deciding win against the Houston Astros.
In Kendrick’s 15 MLB seasons, he had plenty of big moments. Perhaps none were larger than that, though, crossing home plate and skipping toward the dugout and celebrating with his teammates, one step closer to a World Series title.
Kendrick announced Monday on Instagram that he was retiring from the league after 15 seasons. He spent three and a half of those seasons with the Nationals, toward the tail-end of a career that included stints with the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.
“A dream that started as a 5 yr old boy in the town of Callahan, Florida,” Kendrick wrote on Instagram. “I will be forever grateful for the many life lessons baseball has taught me on this 32 yr journey.
“I want to give praise and thanks first to God and secondly my grandmother, Ruth Woods, who laid the groundwork and introduced me to the game of baseball. To my Wife, Jody, my sons Owen and Tyson, I love you more than anything in this world. Thank you for sticking it out on this ride I called a dream.”
His batting average after those 15 seasons rests at .294 — a mark befitting a player fondly described as a “professional hitter.” During his 238 regular season games with the Nationals, that average rose to .316, along with 30 home runs and 113 RBIs.
But it’s Kendrick’s postseason contributions that will long be remembered, particularly for his role in bringing a championship to Washington. In Game 5 of the National League Division Series, Kendrick launched a 10th-inning grand slam to straightaway center field, dispelling a host of October ghosts by propelling the Nationals to their first National League Championship Series.
That next series, Kendrick earned MVP honors, hitting .333 with four doubles and four RBIs in that four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
By that point, Kendrick’s hero-status was all but guaranteed. What he did in Game 7 of the World Series merely added another chapter to an impressive October; his two-run dinger laid the groundwork for the 6-2 victory.
“Last but not least, my Beloved Washington Nationals,” Kendrick wrote on Instagram. “Thank you for embracing me as one of your own. I feel as though I’d been a National my whole career, and the wild, humbling and crazy ride we had in 2019 truly culminated everything I’d learned in my career, and we all became World Champions.”
Last week, general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez said they thought Kendrick would continue to play. The 37-year-old became a free agent this offseason after Washington declined his mutual option for the 2021 campaign.
So now Kendrick is stowing his glove and calling it a career.
“I will always love the game of baseball and will constantly reflect on the lifelong memories made,” Kendrick wrote. “For now, it’s time to drop the mic and enter a new stage of my life.”