Just like a great screenplay writer saves his best for the grand finale, CSU Bakersfield baseball coach Bill Kernen has left his best for his final run at CSUB.
Kernen has been a part of the CSUB baseball program since its beginning in 2007. It was believed that his stint as CSUB’s baseball coach would end last season, and he would move on to writing screenplays in New York. However, he returned for the 2015 season and for one more run at an NCAA Regionals berth.
He now has this year’s team in the NCAA Regionals heading to L.A. to face the UCLA Bruins after winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament Championship on May 24.
“Kernen brought every single one of us in and so it was definitely cool to send him off like this because it’s his last year,” said senior starting pitcher Hayden Carter.
Kernen laid the initial foundation for the team such as recruiting players and other program beginning duties. The Roadrunners’ first season in baseball didn’t start until 2008.
Former CSUB Athletic Director Rudy Carvajal, who hired Kernen back in 2007, said he’s meant everything to CSUB baseball.
“He has built a legacy, set the bar at an extremely high level and has done all the kinds of things you want when building a program,” Carvajal said. “He built it from scratch. There were no facilities, and it’s just a tribute to him.
“It’s great for the program because of the longevity because he established a legacy that it’ll be hard to beat.”
CSUB Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Corey Costelloe said he knew coach Kernen from the start of the baseball program in 2007 as Costelloe was hosting a local sports talk show.
“He put together this stuff that he said he would,” Costelloe said. “He always found guys that were maybe okay in high school and turned them into All-WAC players and MLB draft picks,”
Carter added that Kernen built the program from the ground up.
Senior outfielder Jordie Hein said Kernen recruits guys with heart rather than shear athletic size and natural athletic talent.
“He’s just been such a great mentor,” said Hein. “He’s taught us more than baseball, he taught us about life. Everything that he teaches us he makes sure it relates to life.”
After seven seasons as the Roadrunner’s head coach, Kernen has compiled a record of 190-193-1. He has led the team to its third straight WAC Tournament, gave the program its first WAC Tournament Championship and has won the WAC Coach of the Year honor twice, including this year.
On May 12, before a home game against UC Santa Barbara, Kernen became the very first Roadrunner in any sport to have his jersey number retired. His No. 17 jersey is retired at Hardt Field.
“That was a nice thing,” Kernen said on May 12. “I really appreciated that. I didn’t expect that to happen, so that’s a nice thing to have out there. I like it. I don’t think anyone even knows I’m number 17 because I never wear a uniform.”
Carter said that Kernen’s unique approach helps the players not only as baseball players on the field but also as people in life.
“He doesn’t really focus on the physical aspect of the game,” Carter said. “He mostly focuses on the mental aspect of the game.”
Before the start of the season Kernen has the team read psychological essays. Kernen stresses the importance of visualization and encourages the players to take 30 minutes out of every day for visualization.
“It’s definitely different,” freshman outfielder Christian Deaton said. “I’ve never had a coach that has hammered the mental part of the game in so much.”
Hein added that Kernen opened his eyes to various things about visualization that he never would’ve thought of.
Kernen’s psychology influence comes from his playwright background. Kernen wrote plays at Columbia University’s graduate writing program in the late 1990s. Coach Kernen has a vast amount of experience and knowledge that he has brought to the Roadrunners.
“Whenever he tells us something is going happen it does,” Deaton said.
Deaton said Kernen will predict that the team will win 10 games in a row and then they will.
Carvajal added that CSUB has been lucky to have him as the coach.
“We were very, very fortunate, and he has done an unbelievable job,” he said.