Former Mustangs skipper Kensinger dies
Sandee Kensinger, the winningest coach in Medford Mustangs history and a former Hedrick Middle School teacher, passed away suddenly Monday morning. He was 59.
Kensinger’s wife Suzie confirmed late Monday to a family friend that she and a neighbor found Kensinger on the ground near a shed outside their Talent-area home after he had collapsed, and attempted to revive him. An ambulance was called but it took more than 30 minutes to reach his home off the beaten path in the mountains, according to the friend, and he was pronounced dead some time later.
Cause of death was not available Monday, although Kensinger was hospitalized one year ago after suffering a seizure and a resulting head injury when he was in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the American Legion AAA Northwest Regionals. His health had not been the same since then, but Kensinger was always a tireless worker on his expansive property.
“She’s doing good considering,” said Brent Watts, who coached with Kensinger in the Mustangs program and confirmed his passing after speaking with Suzie Kensinger late Monday. “Just like anybody would, she just really wants to let people know how proud she was of him in what he did with baseball and with kids and how much he cherished the opportunities that he had.”
Watts said Sandee’s brother and Suzie’s sister were in town Monday and provided comfort as the stunning news circulated throughout the day.
“I was truly shocked when I heard it,” said legendary Medford High and North Medford High baseball coach Jim McAbee. “I just couldn’t believe it. Like everybody, I just love Sandee.”
From current North Medford High baseball coach Brett Wolfe to his assistant coaches in the program with Kensinger over the years like Paul White, Monday’s news was tough to process.
“He’s a fixture in this valley,” said White. “All those years as a Mustang coach and with North Medford and Hedrick, that’s a lot of kids that he coached. Tons and tons and tons of kids. It’s going to be tough when people start hearing about this.”
Kensinger retired just three games shy of managing his 1,000th game for the Mustangs prior to the 2011 season. His career record was 758-239, for a winning percentage of .760 over 19 seasons. He stepped down for two seasons, 2001-02, for personal reasons but served as an assistant to Watts.
Under Kensinger, the Mustangs made it to the American Legion World Series three times (1992, ’97 and ’09), placing as high as second in ’97 and ’09. They also went in 2002. The Mustangs captured seven of the team’s 15 state championships with the affable Kensinger at the helm.
For the 2014-15 school year, Kensinger and good friend Dan Keck were named Oregon Athletic Coaches Association middle school coaches of the year for their efforts at Hedrick.
In 2012, Kensinger was inducted into the Medford Sports Hall of Fame. He was an all-conference baseball player at Southern Oregon University, then coached softball at SOU and baseball at Rogue River, Ashland and Eagle Point before taking teaching and coaching job at Hedrick Middle School in 1990.
Memorial service arrangements will be announced later. Watts said Suzie Kensinger made it clear the family wants to make it available to anyone who wants to attend, so it likely will be at the end of the month or in early September.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry