Scholar-Athlete Vies for National Award
Kevin Courtney is a class act. The Stony Brook University baseball player is one of 30 candidates across the nation nominated for the Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes players with the best leadership qualities on and off the field.
The candidate list will further narrow to 10 finalists in April and be voted on nationwide by media, coaches and fans. The winner will be announced at the College World Series in June.
CLASS stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School. Candidates must have notable achievements in four areas: competition, community, classroom and character.
The award originated with CBS sportscaster Dick Enberg, who created it in 2001 for collegiate basketball players and has since gradually expanded to 10 sports with the addition of volleyball in 2010. Each year awards are handed out to the top vote getter in each of those 10 sports. In 2011, Stony Brook University lacrosse player Kevin Crowley was a finalist for the award.
Courtney’s on-the-field achievements as a four-year starting first baseman began in 2011 when he was an America East All-Rookie team selectee after hitting .306. In 2012 he helped Stony Brook advance to the College World Series while compiling a .293 batting average with 38 RBI and earning NCAA Coral Gables Regional All-Tournament honors. In 2013 Courtney led the America East in conference play with a sizzling .348 batting average, slugging six homers and 28 RBI en route to All-America East first team accolades.
Although probably best remembered for a Derek Jeter-like catch in the stands that sparked the Seawolves during the first game of the Super Regionals against LSU in 2012, Courtney’s head coach Matt Senk can’t say enough about his clutch play.
“The catch was the obvious example of the hard-nosed type of player he is,” said Senk. He also had a huge home run against LSU’s ace Kevin Gausman, a first-round Major League draft pick with the Baltimore Orioles, to win that elimination game.
“In that same run for the World Series we were trailing Missouri State 7-3 in the seventh inning when he came up and he not only led off with a double but added another later in the inning and scored multiple runs that put us in the lead.”
In 2013 Courtney showed the kind of unselfishness that got him the CLASS nomination. “He was playing first base in our last conference playoff weekend against Hartford when he took a shot in the face on a hard bounce and was rushed to the hospital with horrific injuries,” said Senk. “The next day he was right there in the dugout with his teammates.”
His off-the-diamond achievements are equally impressive and include taking an active role in Stony Brook’s Hurricane Sandy relief in 2012, spending time with veterans at the Long Island State Veterans Home, playing baseball with disabled children at a Miracle League game and surprising young cancer patients with gifts during the holiday season at the Stony Brook Cancer Center.
“With the Sandy relief, a lot of these people were losing their homes right around the holidays and we did a big turkey drive in conjunction with the Bethpage Federal Credit Union,” Courtney said. “Patrick Muffley (Stony Brook University Assistant Athletics Director) came to me and said we needed everyone’s participation and asked if I could get the team involved.”
In his sophomore year, Courtney and six other teammates visited with the residents Long Island State Veterans Home, many of whom are avid sports enthusiasts. “This was a lot of fun,” he said. “We compared baseball’s present to its past and talked about how the game has changed.”
Courtney said he was especially touched by his visit with cancer patients aged five to 18 during the holiday season at the Stony Brook Cancer Center. “It was awesome to put a smile on their faces,” he said.
Courtney’s desire to give to others speaks directly to his character. “I think what makes Kevin and student-athletes like him stand out are the attributes that make them great teammates — he’s conscientious, supportive, compassionate and unselfish,” said Senk.
Courtney attributes his success to hard work. “My parents always preached that you have to go get whatever it is that you want — that nothing will be given to you.”
That attitude has helped the multidisciplinary studies major earn a B average, although he admits he has had to maintain self-discipline with his studies during baseball season, when the practices and schedule are most demanding of his time. “You have to be mentally tough. When you get an assignment the best thing to do is tackle it right away. You can always go back over it later but the more you wait the more your work piles up. And it’s great having teammates who you can go to for help,” he said.
Senk said that he is a true student of the game. “He has a terrific work ethic. “Baseball’s not an easy game and the good ones fail at the plate 7 out of 10 times on the average. Kevin perseveres.”
Like his father, a computer technician for the Town of Hempstead, Courtney loves technology and anything to do with computers, is a huge history buff, and especially well versed in American wars.
Right now he’s leaning toward either a career in the computer field or law enforcement work, but he admits that if a chance to play baseball after graduation arose he would put those ideas on hold.
“My one grandfather was a fireman and the other one played minor league ball with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization,” said Courtney.
He credits his mom for serving as his “teacher and coach” and “helping me with my backyard swings.”
Senk said that Courtney would be well suited to work as a police officer or a computer technician. “Kevin’s diligent and also an inherently compassionate and caring person who enjoys helping people out,” he said.
Regarding his nomination for the senior CLASS award, Courtney said, “It’s a tremendous honor. I played with Patrick Cantwell in my sophomore year and he was nominated. To be put in the same class as Patrick is something because he is the hardest-working athlete I’ve ever played with.” Cantwell was a third-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers and is currently playing for their Double-A affiliate.
— Glenn Jochum