Family, friends and community members were planning to gather Friday evening at Chula Vista High School’s Kennedy baseball field to honor the life of Bob Kennedy.
But the celebration was abruptly cancelled after the beloved former baseball coach was admitted to the hospital Wednesday.
Kennedy, who former student-athlete Brett Davis called a legendary figure at the high school, has prostate cancer and the celebration was meant to be a living tribute to the 90-year-old man.
As the Spartans baseball coach from 1957 to 1982, Kennedy led his teams to six Metro League pennants and 19 of his teams qualified for the San Diego CIF playoffs.
The former coach not only produced winning teams, he made a winner out of everyone who knew him, said Davis, who is a member of the Chula Vista High School Foundation.
“Not only did he have championship teams, he also turned out championship people,” Davis, who played for Kennedy in 1981 and 1982, said. “It was about being a citizen first and how you treated people. He felt that was a way that it all transpired into becoming successful.”
Kennedy wasn’t just about baseball. He was a referee in the San Diego County Basketball Officials Association for 27 years, serving as the president twice. He also was the school’s athletic director at the same time he coached.
Ultimately, it is baseball that is his true love, playing the game up until he couldn’t play anymore.
“People didn’t know this but he played competitive softball until he was 89,” said Gary Chapman, chairman of the Chula Vista High School Foundation.
Kennedy played for the San Diego Silver Hawks of the senior slow-pitch tournament softball team where he was team captain and played shortstop.
Under his wing, the Silver Hawks won 10 World Series and nine other national tournaments.
In his youthful days, Kennedy was as good a ball player as he was a coach.
His No. 12 jersey at San Diego State University is retired next to Tony Gwynn’s number. Kennedy was inducted into the San Diego State Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 1989, Kennedy was presented a Breitbard Certificate of Athletic Achievement in recognition of his contributions to youth baseball.
All of Kennedy’s achievements and recognitions do not match up to coaching, Kennedy said.
“The thing that I am most proud of, I believe, is being able to coach the young people at Chula Vista High,” Kennedy said. “I think I should be proud of being able to accomplish bringing young people along not only in sports but in life.”
Davis said one of his fondest memories is bringing a championship in 1982, Kennedy’s last year coaching before he retired.
“We gave him his last championship, and that was our goal.” “He told us he was going to retire, so we had to find a way to get him a championship. We did everything in our power to do that.”