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Ex-UNLV player’s rare home run cycle still resonates

Bryson Stott went 2-for-4 with an RBI double in the Phillies’ 9-5 victory over the A’s Friday. Family members and friends made the trip to watch his major league debut.

For those reasons, the date April 8 will always be special to the former Desert Oasis and UNLV star.

But for sheer statistical audaciousness, April 8 probably will always belong to another former Rebels slugger.

That was the day in 1994 when Gus Kennedy hit four home runs in a game at New Mexico State. That’s an impressive feat on any level. But Kennedy’s four homers in the Rebels’ 29-10 victory were a solo shot, a two-run-blast, a three-run dinger and a grand slam — a home run cycle.

Not even Babe Ruth could have called those shots.

Kennedy also added two singles, finishing 6-for-6 with 18 total bases, 10 RBIs and six runs scored.

Las Vegas Aviators media relations director Jim Gemma was UNLV’s baseball SID on that windy day in Las Cruces. To paraphrase a memorable Jack Buck soundbite, Gemma could not believe what he just saw.

“The home-run cycle. I saw it with my own eyes. It was incredible,” Gemma said. “He got the national player of the week in college baseball. The wind was blowing out, but at least three of (the homers) were legit.”

Wind or no wind, you could have placed the ball on a tee and told a guy to hit it as far as he could — and the odds of hitting a home run cycle still would be too astronomical to fathom.

“Absolutely,” Gemma concurred. “It was just crazy. To see something like that, I don’t know what the odds would be.”

Those around UNLV have not heard much from Kennedy since that day. He was born in Phoenix on the day after Christmas in 1973, which would make him 48 years old. He stood 5 feet, 10 inches and weighed 205 pounds, according to Baseball-Reference.com and was drafted in the 31st round by the Atlanta Braves in 1994.

Kennedy spent six seasons in professional baseball but made it only to the high Class A level with the Durham Bulls and a couple of California League clubs. His lifetime minor league batting average was .248 with 81 homers and 287 RBIs.

“He was fast, a really good athlete,” said Gemma, who was keeping the Rebels’ scorebook that day and joked about having to keep sharpening his pencil. “But that’s what so cool about baseball; you think you’ve seen everything, but I had never seen anything like that.”

Around the horn

— At first blush, UNLV’s Tuesday night baseball game against Dixie State looks like one of those midweek contests designed to get the No. 4 and No. 5 starting pitchers some innings. But it also will be a celebration of sorts of Las Vegas-area high school baseball — there are 14 former prep standouts on the Rebels’ roster and six on the Trailblazers’.

— The three past and current UNLV golfers playing in this week’s Masters paused for a photo op during the Par 3 Contest before the Masters at Augusta National. Adam Scott, Aaron Jarvis and Garrick Higgo duffed their balls into a lake on purpose.

— Former UNLV interim basketball coach Todd Simon hasn’t exactly been bashful in scheduling nonconference basketball opponents for his Southern Utah team. It was announced this week the Thunderbirds will visit national champion Kansas on Nov. 18.

— Las Vegas’ Matt Jaskol is out of his full-time NASCAR Truck Series ride after the G2G Racing team “requested to modify” his contract, according to the driver’s Instagram post. In other words, it appears to be “one of them racin’ deals” requiring more money that Jaskol’s sponsors were unable to provide.

— MLS marked its 29th anniversary Wednesday. In that first game, the San Jose Earthquakes defeated D.C. United 1-0 on April 6, 1993 in front of 31,000 fans at Spartan Stadium in San Jose on a goal by former Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda.

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American music journalist Rob Sheffield, on baseball’s Opening Day: “Opening Day is full of time-honored traditions: The President throws out the first ball, the Cubs’ starting pitcher walks away with a 54.00 ERA, the Royals get mathematically eliminated from the pennant race.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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