Payton Kinney started his collegiate baseball career pitching for the Southeast Community College Storm and spent three years at the Beatrice Campus before a shoulder injury forced him out for a season.
Now the Norris High School graduate will be on the other side of the game. In July he was named the new pitching coach at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
While at SCC, his best memories were not the wins or the strikeouts, but the friendships he made along the way.
“It wasn’t necessarily the great games, but the teammates who you go through everything with,” he said. “That’s what I remember.”
Kinney remembers the wins, too, and there were many when he was with the Storm from 2014-2016.
“I remember winning a lot; it seemed like all we did was win,” he recalled. “We struggled at the beginning, but we had a 22-game win streak at one time.”
Even though most players dream of playing collegiate baseball at the highest level, Kinney can’t talk enough about the great experiences he had playing junior college ball.
“At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a very high level of ball,” he said. “Everyone there was so good. It’s a great place to get better so you can reach the highest level.”
Kinney credits the coaching staff for its tough workouts and pushing players to be their best. He said Storm Head Coach Dion Parks and his assistants do a good job of recruiting and getting the best possible players.
“They work extremely hard at recruiting,” he said. “As long as they’re at SCC, they will be a tough opponent. I would be surprised if they didn’t have a great year next year.”
Parks said Kinney always worked hard on and off the field, and always looks for ways to improve his game. He finished his SCC career with a 12-6 record and 114 strikeouts.
“Payton was always the most competitive kid on the field,” Parks said. “What really caught our attention was the passion he played with. He spent countless hours working on his arm strength to gain velocity, which helped him earn a Division I scholarship.”
College coaches from around the region frequently attend Storm games to watch potential recruits. Kinney earned a scholarship to play at UNO in 2016. He played for the Mavericks for another three years but was once again sidelined for a season because of an elbow injury. He finished his senior year with a 1.96 Earned Run Average, an 11-2 record and 111 strikeouts.
He is excited about the upcoming challenge.
“Right now I want to be the best coach I can try to be; it’s still so exciting and so unknown,” he said. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
“I think the mentality he has and the work ethic he displayed over his career will translate really well on the coaching side,” Parks added. “I am excited to see how he does. We are very proud of Payton and wish him the best at Omaha.”
Kinney will never forget his years playing at SCC and hopes to encourage other young players to follow their hearts with baseball. But only if they love it.
“Work your butt off and have fun doing it,” he said. “If it feels like a job, do something else. I can’t overemphasize how important it is to enjoy it. You’ll have a fun career, and it’ll be the best time of your life.”
Kinney earned an Associate of Arts degree in Academic Transfer from SCC and a bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from UNO.