TigsTown: First off, congratulations on your graduation in December from Louisiana-Lafayette. That is a wonderful accomplishment and something you should be very proud of. How rewarding was it to receive your diploma after leaving school in 2005 to play baseball?
Kevin Ardoin: It was definitely rewarding to receive my diploma. One of the biggest reasons for me to go back after being drafted my junior year was because of my engineering degree. I always considered education my number one priority because I knew I would have something to fall back on.
TT: In other big news, you've decided to leave the Tigers and pursue your engineering career with Halliburton; what type of work are you doing for them, and how is it going so far?
KA: True. I did decide to pursue a career with Halliburton as an Associate Technical Professional, which is basically a big word for Field Engineer. I will work mainly out of the office with occasional field work in the Completions division. As of right now my job has been trying to learn basic field calculations I will be working with, and also preparing to take on training courses in Texas.
TT: What factors weighed heavily in your decision to leave baseball for engineering?
KA: Well Mark, a lot of factors came into play. Somewhere along the journey, I just felt like there was something more out there other than the game of baseball. I was planning on marriage, I was graduating, and I basically wanted a piece of the simple life. My interest in playing baseball was slowly declining, and I felt more of an urge to teach and talk about the game more than play it. It was definitely the most difficult decision I had to make. Having to think, "…if I get out, will I miss it?" Suddenly came into all of my decisions. As you know, being a fellow engineer, we calculate every possibility. I weighed the pros and cons and came out with more pros. I also went with my gut decision.
TT: I can only imagine how difficult this decision must have been. Did you have a strong support network to help you along the way?
KA: Some decisions in life do help if you have support, some don't. This particular decision ultimately was my decision, and I got to the point where I have to be the one living my life and no one else. With that being said, I still had great support, mainly from my fiancé at the time, Lauren, and also my great teammates. Lauren basically said she would support me no matter what decision I made, which was a big relief because I would hate to have my wife not supporting what I do and live miserably, so it was definitely a big help to hear those words. Also, friends who have been really close like P.J. Finigan, Kevin Whelan, Chris Robinson, Jeff Hahn, Jeff Larish, and Michael Hollimon all kind of pitched in and gave me advice on what they thought.
TT: Were the Tigers supportive of your wishes when you informed them that you would be leaving baseball?
KA: That was the toughest call I made in my life. Calling my agent, Dave Pasti, was just as tough. Dave was a really good guy, and I say guy, and not agent, because he respected me and treated me like a friend, which means a lot to a minor league player. Getting back to the Tigers, I called Matt Walbeck to talk to him and tell him my decision. He was very respectful and had nothing but good things to say. I then called Glenn Ezell (my favorite person in the Tiger organization…not just because he was from Louisiana) and he had very nice things to say. Words like ‘respected', ‘great teammate', ‘a real joy' were the ones I remembered the most and helped assure I was making the right decision. I had been warned by people of the scolding I would get, but it wasn't like that at all, in fact, the complete opposite! I then called Jon Matlack. I told him thanks for everything that he did for me. We worked through so many things. So many, that I'm sure "you're flying open" will always haunt my dreams. Ha Ha. All in all, every call was very re-assuring.
TT: Let's talk a little about your time in the game. What will be your greatest memory from your three seasons of minor league ball?
KA: My greatest memory…Hmm… So many things pop into my mind right now, you have no idea. In Lakeland, FL, I lived with P.J. Finigan, Kevin Whelan, Chris Robinson, and Jeff Hahn. Every night after the games, we would sit out in the ‘stadium', which was really a screened-in patio, and play euchre. The games got pretty heated and I have to say there were quite a few "show me up" (in a nicer word) jobs going on in the card game. Moves… which only the guys who were playing will know… like the elevator, the Robin Hood, the Charity, the helicopter, to name a few. Another fun memory was the tropical storm party we held at our place, with DJ Jeff Hahn on the mic.
TT: While I'm sure there are many parts of the game that you will miss, can you identify a hitter or two that gave you fits; guys that you aren't sad to say goodbye to?
KA: I think the whole 2007 Akron team. Ha Ha. Those guys were ‘decent.' With that being said, no one specifically would come to the plate where I thought, "oh no." I tried my best, but I will say some people saw the ball out of my hand better than others.
TT: Who are some of the coaches or other players that had the biggest impact on you – personally, professionally, or in any capacity?
KA: 1. Glenn Ezell – whether he noticed or not, I respected him very much. He always had a way of getting everyone at spring training motivated. 2. P.J Finigan, Jeff Hahn, Kevin Whelan, and Chris Robinson – I lived with them most of my career or have kept in touch often. They have always made it fun, no matter where we were. They were great guys and I wish all of them the best. 3. Jeff Larish, Michael Hollimon, Kyle Sleeth, and his partner-in-crime, Danny Zell, Clete Thomas, Matt Joyce, Andrew Kown, Dallas Trahern, Eddie Bonine, Ed Clelland, Freddy Dolsi, Jon Connoly, THE Anthony Tomey (which if you didn't know, does a great impersonation of Peter Pan), Matt Righter, Matt Rusch, and of course Burke Badenhop, and Andrew Miller all had great influence on a daily basis. I can count on every single one of these guys to come through. I am probably leaving people out and will pay the price later. 4. Matt Walbeck – taught me a lot about everything…baseball…life…guitar…and how to invest in yourself. 5. Brit Burns – wealth of knowledge. Along with Jon Matlack, there is nothing, no excuse that a pitcher can ask without a definite answer. 6. A.J. Sager – his talks with us were great and he knew how to come down to explain it on our level. 7. Larry Herndon – probably the most "chill" coach I've ever met. He was great. I still tell everyone how awesome he was. And finally Mike Rojas and Kevin Bradshaw. These managers, along with Wally, know their players really well and know what makes them tic.
TT: As an engineer and former baseball player myself, there are some areas where I have seen surprising parallels between the two. Are there any components of your baseball career that you believe can help you as you establish yourself in the engineering field?
KA: Definitely the communication barrier that most engineers lack. Playing baseball really taught a whole new level of confidence and communication which will help in the engineering world. Leadership is also a major contribution I can take with me. I love to help people out if they are having problems, and in turn, I am not afraid to ask for help when I need it. On the other hand, engineering calculations and probability calculations definitely helped playing baseball. Learning how to work on a team, and how each person will work in tough situations also helps out. So you are right, there are definite parallels, as with the rest of life. Baseball and life lessons kind of go hand-in-hand.
TT: As with all my interviews, I want to give you the chance to leave our readers with some parting thoughts. What would you like everyone out there to know that we might not have touched on yet?
KA: Thanks Mark for taking the time to conduct this interview. I want to thank everyone in the organization. I have to say it was a great time in my life and I will always be a Tiger until the day I die. The coaches and players who I have encountered were truly amazing and deserve everything they get. "First Class" are the words that come to mind when I think of the organization. The fans have also been great. They never give up on you, which means the world to the players. I will never regret my decision or the time I spent in the organization. I feel very blessed and thank God for the talents He has given me. I also would like to thank my parents for supporting me through the years and pushing me to give my all in everything I do. My wife, Lauren, who stuck by me when I had to leave for 6 months. I don't know anyone's dedication that could match hers. Thanks everyone.
TigsTown would like to thank Kevin for taking time to speak with us about his experiences in the game, and ultimately, his decision to leave the game. We wish him the best of luck in all of his endeavors and we will miss seeing him on the field. Thanks Kevin!