If there was ever the perfect pair of players a baseball coach could ask for, Keene State College alumni Jeff Pelkey and Kyle Morrilll were the perfect duo for KSC baseball Coach Ken Howe. Now graduated as of 2012, the perfect duo is back in action under the helm of Coach Howe, but this time the two former players serve a different role.
Last summer, a pair of Owls became coaches of the Keene Blue Jays, a local team unaffiliated with the college that is associated with the Central New England Baseball Association (CNEBA). Howe became impressed with how the two were handling the CNEBA program, called Pelkey and Morrill into his office and reached out to them, offering jobs as assistant baseball coaches to the program.
After Keene High School had come to terms with former hitting coach Dan Moylan, who took over the head coaching job for the baseball program there, Coach Howe said that bringing in a pair of former great players would make up for the absence.
“Morrill has taken on the hitting role, working with players individually,” Howe said. “When he worked with coach [Dan] Moylan for three years, who is now at Keene High, we kind of needed someone like him to step in and having that hitting philosophy, I thought it was just a natural transition. Jeff [Pelkey] has been helping out with the players, including four other coaches, and with the number of pitchers on our roster we’ve got a number of guys who need to continue to get work and learn how to better improve their side of the game.”
Pelkey played with the program from 2009 to 2012 and was an important piece to their starting rotation all four years, according to Coach Howe. Morrill played from 2008 to 2012, taking on numerous roles as a utility man going from infielder, to outfielder, back to infielder, and finishing in center field.
When the two players joined the Owl’s coaching staff after co-coaching the Keene Blue Jays last summer, their commitment to the KSC program was due greatly to their commitment and love for the school.
“I really love Keene State College,” Pelkey said. “I fell in love with it as a freshman and I really love this program. The guys and the coaching staff have been awesome and it’s been a great experience for my four years here so I definitely want to give back by being a coach.”
Morrill was enthusiastic to the idea of playing with one of his best friends and teammates throughout college.
“He [Pelkey] is one of my best friends and getting a chance to coach with him is a lot of fun,” Morrill said. “It’s just like playing with him. He was kind of a hard nose player and played the game right, so he understands the game, and he’s just an all-around great kid, and he makes it a lot more fun and kind of laid back. When it comes to game time though, we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Coach Howe’s analysis on the former players’ performance as coaches is something he said has been a smooth and easy ride so far. Though their future with the program is uncertain due to the young coaches’ search for jobs and a settled down life post-graduation, Coach Howe said he would love to keep them around as long as possible.
“They were very good players for us and very good kids, which is very important in trying to get them to transition in the coaching realm,” Howe said. “They both showed an interest in the past by listening to what we say. They’ll be sitting by us in the dugout and trying to absorb as much baseball as they possibly can and that interest I think was peaked early on in their years. The transition has been easy after four good years.”
While being former players only one season from the team so far, Pelkey and Morrill faced the daunting task of having to gain the “coaching” respect from former teammates still on the team and break the barrier of being just another friend or teammate so they may be successful as coaches.
Their contributions have not been unnoticed by former teammates like senior Eric Perrault, who played with his two new coaches for the last 3-4 seasons.
“It’s a little different,” Perrault said. “I haven’t really experienced it before, but it’s fun because we’re all on the same page with everything being here together for the last five years, but we know what works for each other.”
Coach Howe said this transition is something he likes to try to make challenging for every new coach.
“The hardest thing is, which I tend to do with the guys who I think have the potential to be good coaches, is ask them if they’re interested in staying with the program and trying to develop that side of their career,” Howe said. “When they have to transition from being a friend and a player with the guys still on the team after just graduation, they’ve both done a great job in making that process go well.”
On a team where some of the seniors remain older than their new coach Morrill, the hitting coach said there’s a certain line of respect that players have come to follow.
“I don’t think it was that hard of a transition for them, but you know some of the older guys, some of the seniors that I’m still very good friends with off the field you got to kind of toe the line between player-coach and player-friend,” Morrill said. “All the guys, though, are pretty good with it. They know when they’ve gone too far when it comes to giving each other a hard time and they see the boundary so it’s pretty clear to most of them.”
Pelkey and Morrill both displayed great admiration to their coaches during the tenure of their playing careers.
“All the opportunities he’s given me both as a player and as a graduate now and helping me out,” Morrill continued. “Him, Marty Testo and John Raiola—they’re all so knowledgeable of the game that I’m just trying to soak up as much information as I can and if something comes up where I have to leave the coaching staff where I could pursue another coaching career, the information I gain from them will certainly be passed forward.”
With all the contributions they’ve given the team so far, Coach Howe said the firsthand coaches’ futures are very bright no matter how long they stick around the program. He said wherever the players end up in the future as baseball coaches’ they’ll certainly end up successful.
“I’m not exactly pinned down to a certain area right now but I really love being around Keene,” Morrill said. “It’s a great group of guys and if I’m able to get a teachers certification to get a job in the area in keep coaching at Keene State [College] that would be great.”
Dalton Charest can be contacted at