Kerry Kincaid knows what it’s like to represent his country.
For six years, he did so as an electronic technician, second class, in the Nuclear Navy.
Then he joined the East Wake High School baseball program, eventually becoming the head coach from 2008-11, and took a job in the N.C. State University nuclear engineering department. His days representing his country were seemingly over.
Kincaid again found himself hearing the National Anthem played while wearing a United States uniform this summer, but the uniform was a very different one. It was the kit of the U.S. Women’s Baseball team that Kincaid helped coach to a gold medal in the first-ever women’s baseball tournament in Pan-Am Games history.
The Games were held in July in Canada and featured some 6,000 athletes from across North and South America competing in Olympics-style events. For Kincaid, the realization that his side job as a baseball coach had eventually brought him to such a stage was difficult to believe.
Where it Began
During his time at East Wake, Kincaid’s assistant Chris Duty served as the manager for the USA Baseball complex in Cary.
Following the 2009 high school season, Kincaid dipped his toes in the water by getting involved with the 18U National Team. The coach suddenly found himself in the company of future major league mega-stars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
He was instantly hooked.
“Over the years, I got involved with more and more age groups,” he said. “I’ve been involved with pretty much every age group that USA Baseball has at every level.”
Kincaid left East Wake after a 13-9 campaign in 2011 and went on to accept a job as the first-base coach for the Carolina Mudcats. But it was at USA Baseball that Kincaid found a niche coaching the women’s team in baseball – not softball, he points out emphatically.
To the Pan Am Games
After three years helping run trials for the team, he accepted an offer to serve as assistant coach for the Pan Am Games run.
“At the beginning, it didn’t really dawn on me where I was going,” Kincaid said. “Honestly, I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until I realized that this is the Pan Am games, where there are 41 countries, and we’re right in the middle.”
In the first women’s baseball game in Pan Am Games history on July 20, the United States defeated Venezuela 10-6. Michelle Snyder hit three RBIs to lead the U.S. team to victory.
Earning the first win in the history of the event was “something that could never be taken away,” Kincaid said.
The Americans swept through the remainder of the preliminary round, routing Cuba 11-0 and Puerto Rico 9-0 before edging host Canada 3-1. The Canadians beat Venezuela to earn a rematch with the U.S. in the gold medal game on July 26.
After the U.S. surged out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning, Canada cut the lead to 5-3 during the fourth frame of the seven-inning contest and pulled the momentum to its side. But the U.S. loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and then catcher Anna Kimbrell hit a bases-clearing double to stretch the lead to an insurmountable 8-3.
“They had a huge crowd, and their crowd was all over our players,” Kincaid said. “(It was a) huge, pressure moment and our catcher just came through. That was the biggest moment for me, feeling like ‘man, we’re really going to win this thing.’ ”
The United States pulled away to top Canada 11-3 for the first gold medal in women’s baseball.
‘An amazing experience’
Wake County boasts several other connections to the national team, including Raleigh natives Jim Comis, trials director, and Ashley Bratcher, administrative director, whom Kincaid credits for the opportunity to participate.
As for the gold medal, coaches get their picture taken with one but don’t receive one to keep. Kincaid is hardly disappointed at the lack of a tangible keepsake.
“I’ve been involved with a lot things through the years in baseball,” he said. “To me this is probably the neatest thing I’ve been a part of. All of this is just an amazing experience for me. I’ve done stuff in the last five years that I never thought I would be doing.”
Kincaid’s experience with the team has also opened his eyes to a new kind of serving his nation: wearing a U.S. baseball jersey under the sunlight of the baseball diamond rather than a U.S. Navy uniform under the fluorescent lights of a nuclear lab.
“There’s nothing like hearing the National Anthem play when you won the gold medal,” he said. “I know what it’s like to represent my country in multiple ways now.”