Former New York Mets farmhand Brett Kay has won two championships on the professional baseball ranks: Brooklyn Cyclones (New York-Penn League Co-Champs in 2001 due 9/11 attacks) and St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League in 2003.
Plus, he has made two College World Series appearances with Cal State Fullerton in 1999 and 2001. He also won five Trinity League titles, arguably the best prep circuit in the country, with his JSerra Catholic High School baseball team, whom he has been coaching since 2006.
But Kay said the D1 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section baseball crown his Lions recently won has been his most gratifying to date.
“The (championship) win in Brooklyn was great,” said Kay, who spent three years in the Mets farm system. “This took me a long time to get. This was the big cake for me. This was pretty special for me.”
It is no wonder he sees the CIF SS crown as such a wonderful accomplishment. After 16 years at the helm, and coming so close last season, Kay and the Lions finally captured what he called the mountaintop of high school baseball in the area, especially after a slow start.
“We lost last year in the CIF Championship,” Kay said. “It was like a gut punch. “We got off to a 6-9 start, then won 17 of 18 games (this year). We needed to get healthy, we needed to get clicking.”
Which JSerra did. But he said he is not happy with just one CIF SS title.
“I hope I don’t have to wait another 16 years,” the father of two boys quipped. “I’m not going to be satisfied with just one title.”
While winning is one very important thing, Kay noted that he has helped 86 high school players reach the college baseball ranks (many Division-I), and 25 make it to the pros. One of which is former 2017 No. 1 MLB overall pick of the Minnesota Twins, Royce Lewis, who is currently on the injured list with a right knee bone bruise.
The Houston Astros selected the now-42-year-old in the 35th round of 1998 MLB Amateur Draft out of Mater Dei High School but decided to attend Cal State Fullerton on scholarship.
The Mets wound up picking Kay in the 8th round of the 2001 MLB Draft.
The Long Beach, Calif, native said that turning down the Astros’ offer was the best decision he made at the time, given his youthful age and immature mindset.
“I would’ve been a mess,” Kay recalled. “I would’ve probably got arrested. I needed college; I needed my college coaches.”
Kay said he strives to help his players grow as athletes as well as people, so they will make better life choices, just the way the coaches and various people he has had helped guide him during his existence and baseball career.
“I had some really mentors in my life,” he said. “I couldn’t do it alone. I needed them in my life.”
After the 2001 draft, New York shipped Kay to the Cyclones, where he slugged a .311 batting average with five home runs and 18 RBI in 180 at-bats in 49 contests. He finished his three-year pro career with a .255 batting average, 15 longballs and 64 RBI in 713 at-bats in 215 games.
The former catcher said he enjoyed his time in the pros and learned a great deal from the quality coaches in the Mets system. But Kay said he is truly happy as a high school baseball coach and assistant athletic director at JSerra.
“I loved it (playing in the pros). It was freedom, it was great,” he recollected. “I didn’t like the politics, but the comes with the territory. I know I wanted to do it (coach). I’m not good at anything else. I don’t see myself selling insurance, or behind a computer. I don’t regret the decisions that I’ve made. If I died today, I’d be happy. I lived a good life.”
— Jerry Del Priore
Photos: Courtesy of Brett Kay/Joe Latter.