In the dressing room after the Canberra Cavalry went down to the Adelaide Giants in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) elimination final in February 2021, it was announced to the team that star pitcher Steven Kent was calling it a day.
At 31 years of age and with three young children, he was preparing for one final fling: the postponed Tokyo Olympics in July this year.
It was a decision he forecast in an interview with Region Media in June 2020.
“I want to focus on the upcoming ABL season with the Canberra Cavalry and then next year’s Olympics before retiring,” he said.
But after the dressing room announcement, it was obvious Steven was having second thoughts.
I called him in March seeking to do a story on his career. He politely declined, suggesting he wasn’t keen to go public just yet about the retirement even though he had told a number of people he had played his last game for the Cavalry.
Five months down the track, it is common knowledge the now 32-year-old Steven has signed on for one more ABL season in Canberra due to a combination of factors.
The seed for a change in mind was sown months ago.
“I told people last year that I was retiring, then it was announced to the team,” he says. “But about a week after it was announced in the dressing room that I was retiring, I had second thoughts.”
What followed was a series of cascading events, making the decision to continue playing in the ABL impossible to resist.
“At the end of last season, I was mentally taxed,” says Steven. “I now feel as though I have something to offer.”
Also at play was the emergence of new licence holders for the Cavalry, Brendon Major and Illya Mastoris.
“I’ve known Brendon and Illya for a long time,” says Steven. “They have the best interests of the team, the players, their families, and the Canberra baseball community at heart. It’s a fresh start.”
If Steven hadn’t already decided to continue playing for the Cavalry, it became insurmountable when Baseball Australia opted not to send a team to the Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico due to logistical challenges created by COVID-19, and therefore won’t be heading to Tokyo.
Steven’s Olympic dream was over.
“The last thing was not going to the Olympics,” he says. “It provided extra motivation to continue playing with the Cavalry in the ABL.”
In essence, Steven didn’t want to go out that way, and the decision was made to re-sign with the Cavalry.
It is a decision that will be celebrated by the club’s passionate supporter base, many of who have followed his career from a four-year-old playing T-ball, to signing with the Atlanta Braves in the US as a teenager, spending seven years in two stints with the Brave, and returning home to play for Canberra.
He also first represented Australia as a 17-year-old.
Now at 32, the veteran left-hand pitcher still has plenty to offer as one of the ABL’s leading players.
As to how long he plans to keep playing for, understandably he is reluctant to speculate.
“Next time I decide to bow out, I will just fade away and not make a big announcement.”
In sport and life, you are a long time retired so it’s well worth a second thought.