Not long after Ian Kennedy signed a contract to pitch for the Royals, he and his wife, Allison, talked about what they could do for Kansas City.
That may seem odd to some, but Kennedy had signed for five years and $70 million, and he felt a responsibility to give back to the community he would be joining.
When he pitched for the Padres, Kennedy made a point to do something for the people of San Diego. There is a huge Navy base there, and Kennedy’s brother-in-law Derek Jaskowiak is in that branch of the armed forces. So the Kennedys brought in bring in kids of service members for Padres games.
“We still wanted to do stuff with the military, so we got together with Royals Charities and what they support, knowing there is a military presence everywhere,” Kennedy said. “We still wanted to take care of them. …
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“We kind of wanted to get in touch and establish ourselves in Kansas City. It’s been really cool.”
The Kennedys are doing more than having people watch a Royals game. They pay for different groups to watch from a Dugout Suite at every home Saturday game, including members of Whiteman Air Force Base, Folds of Honor, the USO, the VFW and first responders.
All the food is paid for in the suite, and the fans arrive early enough to watch Royals batting practice. Plus, they get some sweet swag.
“They come here and they have a rack full of clothes, a certain amount that they can pick from,” Kennedy said. “They get a bunch of Royals gear, (team employees) get their sizes and then the go up (to the Team Store) and bring it back as fast as they can.
“A lot of these people, we’re finding out, they’ve never been to a game before. It’s really cool to be part of the community. As baseball players, we feel it’s our responsibility to give back and give to people who don’t have these opportunities. I never had an opportunity as a kid to come to a game and watch a game from a suite.”
Because of Kennedy’s generosity, he is one of 10 major-league players nominated for the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award, which “recognizes and honors those who support our nation’s service men and women.”
Before the Royals’ game against the Indians on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, Kennedy was honored on the field for being a finalist for the award.
“We appreciate, as being Americans, all the liberties we get,” he said. “The least I can do is bring them out to a baseball game.”
The other nominees for the award are: Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O’Day, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, New York Yankees pitcher David Robertson, Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber, Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom and Padres pitcher Craig Stammen.