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CGB Hall of Fame: (5) Diane Ninemire vs. (4) Jeff Kent

The second Round of 32 matchup of the Joe Kapp region pits legends of the diamond as Diane Ninemire, Cal Softball coach, faces Jeff Kent, one of the greatest second basemen of all time.

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Results from the previous round

Higher seeds held serve as fifth-seeded Diane Ninemire advanced past twelth-seeded Allen Crabbe, 58-34, and fourth-seeded Jeff Kent defeated thirteenth-seeded Steve Birnbaum.

(5) Diane Ninemire

Coaches come and go in college sports... even the legends can be temporal. But Diane Ninemire transcends all of that, to the tune of 28 years as Cal Softball's Head Coach, more than 1,200 career victories (one of only eight coaches in the history of NCAA Softball to reach that milestone), more than 11 College World Series appearances, and one national title. All of the above at Cal.

But for the players she coached and mentored, Ninemire means more than just the numbers and the victories. She is a mother figure to 28 years of student-athletes.It is a bond she forged through her partnership with her own mentor and predecessor, Head Coach Donna Terry.

Sean Wagner-McGough of the Daily Californian explains:

In 2002, Ninemire's attention to detail and work ethic paid off when Cal won its first Women's College World Series. But she hasn't built her program by being a drill sergeant like her former boss. The first time Cheyenne Cordes, Cal's junior shortstop, met Ninemire, she couldn't believe how funny she was.

"You expect these college coaches to be super evil because they have these great programs, and in the back of your mind you're wondering how they got here," Cordes says. "But coach is the exact opposite of that. If you take the time to get to know her on a personal level, she'll invest her time into you."

The game has changed since her days spent catching Terry's fastballs in the dimly lit basement of Hearst Gym. Softball season doesn't end in summer anymore. Now, she's working year round. She vacations in Hawaii once a year, but she can't turn off her phone in case someone needs her. She lives on a golf course, but her golf cart sits idle in her garage. When she goes home after a day spent at the Simpson Center and Levine-Fricke Field, she watches film, looking to gain an edge on her adversaries.

"You're kind of married to your job," Ninemire says. "There is no downtime. I never feel like I can walk away from this job anymore and not have it in the back of mind."

Ninemire's happy, insisting that when her passion is gone, she'll step down. She doesn't know when that day will come, but when it does, she'll walk away. But for now, the passion is still there — it still runs deep.

"I have a lot of heart and passion for what I do," Ninemire says. "I always tell people what I do here at Cal is not a job. This is purely being in recess."

(4) Jeff Kent

STANFORD CAL BRAWL-Full of jeff kent/Milano/mcdowell/marquess (via scoobypop5)

norcalnick has more on Kent:

Full Disclosure: I had never heard of Jeff Kent before he was part of a trade that sent Matt Williams to the Indians and away from the Giants. In Cal's baseball media guide there are only a few references to Jeff Kent. In 1987 he set a Cal record (since broken by Xavier Nady) with the most doubles in a season (25). Also in 1987, Kent set, and still holds, the Cal record for the most errors in a season (34) by ANY position. Nothing would indicate a potential Hall of Famer. What Kent went on to do is have the greatest professional baseball career of any Cal graduate ever. And there is no debate. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

In 1996 Kent had 5 undistinguished seasons of baseball under his belt. He was averaging around 24 HRs per year and hitting about .275. A solid everyday major leaguer, but hardly a star. When my 11 year old self heard about the trade, I was none too pleased. You're trading away Matt Williams?! Sure, Matty was getting older, but he jacked 43 bombs in the strike year! He hit .336 in 1995! You're an idiot Sabean!

Brian Sabean, in his first year as general manager of the Giants, was so widely criticized for the move that he famously defended himself to the media by saying, "I am not an idiot."

Jeff Kent proceeded to prove that Brian Sabean wasn't an idiot (yet, at least) by having perhaps the greatest statistical stretch a 2nd baseman has had in the history of baseball. In his 6 years as a Giant he averaged 29 home runs and 115 RBIs, he defense improved, he won an MVP and he combined with frenemy Barry Bonds to terrorize National League pitching. He would finish his career with the most home runs by a 2nd baseman ever.

Unfortunately Jeff Kent is also a world class jerk. That he and world class jerk Barry Bonds combined to lead the Giants to so much success from '97-'02 is all the proof you need that hack writers like Bruce Jenkins don't know what they're talking about when they write about how critical "clubhouse chemistry" is for success on the diamond.
This blog post will give you the quick run down of all of the individuals, teams, groups, cities and ethnicities/sexual orientations that Jeff Kent has angered in some fashion. Plus he betrayed San Francisco to become a Dodger, which trumps all of the other evil he's perpetuated.

But in the end Jeff Kent is a gritty, talented play with career accomplishments that could rank him as perhaps the greatest 2nd baseman in history. Remember him on the field, and not off it.