Kannenberg Stays Home
July 6, 2010
You'd be hard pressed to find a baseball player with more Oshkosh in his blood than Kyle Kannenberg.
You’d be hard pressed to find a baseball player with more Oshkosh in his blood than Kyle Kannenberg.
He started his baseball career at Oshkosh West, played for the Oshkosh Legion in the summer, enrolled and started at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for four years and is still pitching for the Oshkosh Giants.
Kannenberg was born in Oshkosh as well, begging the question — did he ever think about leaving?
“I could have played other places, but I’m proud I played for Oshkosh and I’m from Oshkosh,” Kannenberg said. “There’s not too many people who can say they played four years for (UWO) coach (Tom) Lechnir, and me being from Oshkosh, it’s honorable. I like that.”
It wasn’t like Kannenberg was a marginal player, either. West coach Tony Gerharz said he was one of the better players to come out of West.
“Kyle was one of the most competitive kids we’ve had,” Gerharz said. “He was one of those little kids, but a tough kid. He competed.”
Kannenberg started as a freshman for the Titans. A jack-of-all-trades on the field, Kannenberg played various infield positions for the Wildcats, and later transitioned from shortstop to pitcher between his sophomore and junior seasons at UWO.
All the while, he maintained a presence at the plate, batting .333 as a junior and .299 as a senior.
“He was just a fiery competitor that wanted to go out and win,” said Brad Demmin, a former UWO teammate and the current Giants coach.
Perhaps nowhere did the fire burn brighter on the mound, where Kannenberg won 15 games in his final two years.
“When I’m on the mound, I’m just a totally different ballplayer,” Kannenberg said. “I’m more mentally tough on the mound and just zoned in. There’s something about that one-on-one battle I get into.”
For Lechnir, it was only a matter of time until he turned his strong-armed infielder into a hurler.
Kannenberg’s fastball topped out at 91 mph, and that couldn’t stay off the mound forever.
“Obviously, he has a fast and efficient arm, that was easy to see,” Lechnir said. “We brought (pitching) up to him, and he was interested.”
Kannenberg started working on his pitching with the Giants over the summer, and quickly became the team’s ace.
On off days, Kannenberg would still play infield and held a prominent place in the order.
“It’s difficult (playing multiple positions), you have to be a really, really good athlete from a physical standpoint,” Lechnir said. “You have to have the mental capability, to practice your hitting, fielding and go over to the other side basically to practice your pitching.”
There aren’t many athletes who are able to pull it off.
“I like being around youth and working with the younger kids,” Kannenberg said. “The amount of knowledge I received from coach Lechnir, you know you can end up teaching it, because I’ve been around it and believed in it for so long.”
He first got interested in working with youth after partaking in many of the UWO baseball camps throughout the year.
“He’s touched a lot of those guys lives,” Lechnir said.
From West, to the Legion, to UWO, to the Giants, there’s little doubt Kannenberg has touched the lives of many players, fans and friends in the city.
“It’s nice to have a hometown guy have a very good career at UWO, and contribute every place he went,” Gerharz said.
“To be able to do that is special,” Demmin said.
Demmin now gets to reap the rewards of Kannenberg’s pitching once again as he remains one of their top hurlers.
“We know we’re going to get a good outing from him, he just goes up there and throws strikes,” Demmin said. “It’s nice having a guy that keeps us in the game if our bats aren’t there.”
Kannenberg plans to continue to take classes at UWO as he works toward his communications degree, and will keep playing for the Giants this summer and possibly beyond. He would like to work with youth baseball players in the future as a way to stay involved with baseball in Oshkosh.
Story by: Rob Ebert (Oshkosh Northwestern)
Photo by: Anthony Wahl (Oshkosh Northwestern)
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