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The Master's College's Steven Karkenny: Well worth the shot

Steven Karkenny chose TMC over many other options after high school

Posted: March 31, 2013 10:16 p.m.
Updated: March 31, 2013 10:16 p.m.

The Master's College sophomore outfielder Steven Karkenny leads the Golden State Athletic Conference in multiple hitting categories, including home runs, RBIs and hits.

For The Master’s College’s Steven Karkenny, it was an easy decision.

Coming off a decorated three-year varsity career as one of the best players on one of the most elite high school baseball programs in Southern California, he had options.

There were Major League Baseball teams showing interest and even more college teams going after the Chatsworth High graduate.

But Karkenny saw TMC as place where he could work on his game and become even better.

Boy, was he right.

“I’d like to think that I had a chance (to get drafted by an MLB team), but it was definitely time to come here because I had a lot of things that I had to work through and develop in college,” Karkenny says.

The sophomore outfielder hasn’t taken long to develop into a premiere college player.

He leads the Golden State Athletic Conference in home runs (eight) and RBIs (39) and hits (52) in 38 games this year. Those totals also put him among the top 10 in hits and RBIs among all NAIA Division I players in the nation.

His .382 batting average is second in conference and he was named GSAC Player of the Week on March 25, which was the second he won the honor in a span of three weeks.

“What Steve has done is he’s developed as a hitter fundamentally and he’s mentally stronger,” says TMC head coach Monte Brooks. “His fundamentals have improved and he’s becoming a tougher out. His approaches have become more consistent.”

And it’s not as if Karkenny was a no-name when he graduated from high school.

He was named co-MVP of the West Valley League and was an All-CIF Los Angeles City Section Division I selection following his senior season at Chatsworth in 2011.

Two years earlier, Karkenny helped Chatsworth win a CIF L.A. City Section title.

While Karkenny played at Chatsworth, he watched multiple teammates like Carlos Escobar (drafted by Chicago Cubs), Sean O’Connell (Chicago White Sox) and Aaron Brown (Pittsburgh Pirates) get chosen by MLB squads.

Some signed with teams, others chose college instead.

Once he got to know TMC, Karkenny said his mind was made up quickly.

“We knew once that he was interested in us, we had an opportunity to lasso him here,” Brooks recalls of recruiting Karkenny. “There was a lot of competition, but I just shared with him what we are and what we do.”

The program suited Karkenny well spiritually and academically given his strong study habits and devotion to Christianity.

It also helped that the school has a successful baseball tradition with the team winning a GSAC title in 2003 and finishing third in the NAIA World Series in 2000.

The team is off to its best start in years at 27-11 overall and 19-8 in the GSAC, which is first place in conference by 2 1/2 games.

Brooks attributed a lot of the team’s good fortune this season to the unselfishness of the players and the arrive-early, stay-late mind set.

“Coach has done a great job with the team preparing us since the beginning of the fall and the Lord has given us some opportunities to succeed and he’s given us to some obstacles to overcome,” Karkenny says. “And I think at this point in the season, we’ve done a pretty good job overcoming those things.”

For Karkenny in particular, he said he wanted to get better at waiting for a good pitch to hit rather than swinging away.

This year, he’s found an entirely new gear.

“He had a ton of weight put on this shoulders last year and I think this year he’s able to handle it a little better,” says teammate and fellow sophomore Jon Popadics. “Last year, I think he had to step in and be a guy who he wasn’t.”

But Karkenny did was he’s always been taught to do. Get to work. Practice. Work on his swing over and over again.

Popadics said he can remember times when the two of them were studying and decided to take a short break.

While Popadics relaxed and listened to music, Karkenny started practicing his swing in front of a mirror.

“He’s the hardest worker on our team, no doubt,” Popadics says. “I try to keep up with him as much as I can. He pushes me.”

At the rate Karkenny is going, it could be tough for anyone to keep up with him.

But he doesn’t want to think about any of that. He just wants to keep his head down and continue improving.

As Brooks put it, “he just can’t wait for his next at-bat.”


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