Buddy Kennedy is ready to start his professional baseball career.
Now, if he can just get used to the 100-degree heat.
The recent Millville High School graduate signed a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday for $550,000 — $193,100 over the slot value for a fifth-rounder. Kennedy signed the contract at the Diamondbacks’ training facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“I can’t wait to start. It’s just crazy. I graduated from high school just a week ago, and now I’m a professional baseball player in Arizona,” Kennedy said Saturday morning. “It’s what I wanted, and thankfully it came true. I just want to have fun with it.”
Kennedy was the 142nd overall pick in MLB’s draft and was the last of four local drafted players to sign. Buena Regional’s Denny Brady (Angels), Egg Harbor Township’s Troy Dixon (Seattle) and St. Augustine Prep’s Zach Warren (Phillies) all signed in the past week.
Kennedy said the Diamondbacks flew him to Arizona on Tuesday so he could get used to the weather.
“When I got here, it was 122 (degrees),” he said. “And for the past couple of days, it has been around 100, but it’s better than 122. I’ll get used to it.”
His parents joined him on the flight out to help him get situated but left Thursday.
“They said when they left, ‘You’ll probably sign the next day,’ and it happened,” Kennedy said. “It’s been a little stressful, but once I signed my contract and had my first practice (Friday), it’s been so relaxed.”
Kennedy’s mother, Shannon, said she could tell he was relieved to have signed and ready to just play ball.
“It’s been two weeks (since he’s been drafted), and it’s been in the blink of an eye,” she said.
Shannon said this is the first time Buddy has been away from home for an extended period of time.
“He’s a homebody. He likes to hang out with his friends here (at home),” she said. “He plays video games with his friends here all the time.”
The time apart hasn’t been easy for her either.
“I’ve had my crying spells, just not around him,” Shannon said with a laugh. “But to see the culmination of all this — the travel ball and dedication and time. He did all the hard work. We just got him places.”
The 18-year-old said he will play the season with the team’s Arizona Rookie League team.
“I’ll be out here until our season ends in September, unless we make the playoffs,” he said. “(A typical day) honestly goes by quick. Go to the ballpark at 1 p.m., lunch at 2 p.m., early hitting at 3 p.m., game starts at 7 p.m. It’s fun. It what I wanted. I’ve very happy for it.”
Arizona’s rookie league team was set to open its season Saturday night, although Kennedy may not play right away. He said he hasn’t seen any live pitching since Millville lost 4-0 to Rancocas Valley Regional on May 23 in the first round of the South Jersey Group IV playoffs.
“I don’t want to jump into something real quick. They want to give me time to get in a groove,” he said, adding he expects to play in his first game sometime next week.
Although Kennedy also pitched in high school, the Diamondbacks drafted him as a third baseman. The first-team Press All-Star hit .493 with six home runs and 24 RBIs for the Thunderbolts this spring.
“I’m not going to miss pitching. I knew I wasn’t going to project as a pitcher,” he said. “I want to play the hot corner. I get to make big plays and wing it across the diamond and do my thing at the plate.”
Shannon said Buddy’s older sister, Alexis, plans to visit him in July. Shannon and her husband, Bud, plan to make a trip in August.
“They love his bat. The love his speed,” Shannon said. “To see all that and a team and organization that want him to be special, it’s rewarding for a mom.”