Thursday, August 13, 2020

Obituary: Kevin Michael Ward (1961-2019)

A funeral mass will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado, CA, Monday, March 18th at 12p. Kevin was a staunch believer in God, Family, Country, Freedom and Liberty, and leaves us with his favorite Bible verse; Colossians 3:23 - “Do everything heartily unto the Lord, and not unto man.”

Kevin Ward played in 125 major league games over two seasons with the Padres.

Kevin Michael Ward, born September 28, 1961 in Lansdale, PA passed to God’s Kingdom on March 9th, 2019 in Coronado, CA after a battle with brain cancer.

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Ward grew up in Chalfont, PA and was quickly discovered as an elite athlete, playing both football and baseball. As a child, he was a frequent visitor to Veteran’s Stadium in south Philadelphia to watch his beloved Phillies play. The fourth of four boys (Bobby, Denny and David) born to Robert (deceased ‘95) and Paula Ward, he developed a tenacity and toughness at a very young age that would stick with him through an amazing life journey, all the way until his final day in this world.

Attending Central Bucks High School West, (where he was later inducted into the Bucks Hall of Fame in 2000) Kevin starred at football playing Quarterback, leading CBH to the Pennsylvania State Championship his senior year and excelled as a pitcher on the baseball diamond. So much so, that he earned the attention of college recruiters around the country seeking his talents. In 1978, he chose the University of Arizona for a football scholarship over Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan, Miami and others. One of the reasons Kevin selected Arizona was that he could play baseball – which he loved since childhood – along with football.

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Kevin sitting next to his son, Ryan and across from his wife, Christy and daughter, Catie.

As it turned out, Kevin went on to become one of Arizona’s greatest two sport athletes of the modern era.  Ward led the Wildcats as a First Team All-Pac 10 Conference player under legendary coach Jerry Kindall, where he hit over .400 for the Wildcats in one season. He also shined on the football field, transitioning from quarterback to become a starting wide receiver for the ‘Cats. It was at the end of his college career that he met the love of his life, Christina Renee Giansante of Forest Grove, Oregon who was a student at Arizona.

On a ski trip with his daughter, Catie.

Kevin chose to pursue a baseball career after college despite the interest of several professional football teams. Ironically, one of the most interested would be the Dallas Cowboys – the rivals of his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. In June of 1983, his childhood goal of being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies came true when he was selected in the 6th round of the MLB Draft by the organization.

Kevin then went on a spectacular journey of the country playing in the Phillies minor league system and working his way up with stops in Bend, OR, Hampton, VA, Reading, PA, and with the AAA Maine Guides.  When a shoulder injury derailed Kevin’s certain ascension to the big league Phillies, he transitioned to the Oakland A’s organization in the off-season. That break also brought forth one of the best days of Kevin’s life, when he married Christy on December 11, 1989 in Coronado, CA, where they would settle. The next season, he joined the Huntsville, AL Stars, the A’s double A affiliate. He was then quickly promoted to the AAA Tacoma Tigers.   Successful again and on the verge of making it to the Major League, Keven suffered another injury, this time to his wrist. Of course, with Kevin it was simply another challenge to overcome. He fought back through the setback again and joined the San Diego Padres organization and was sent to the AAA Las Vegas Stars, where he led the Pacific Coast League in hitting and was named to the AAA All-Star team.

Kevin with his children, Ryan and Catie.

May 9, 1991 was magnificent day for Kevin and Christy. Ward was finally called up to the Major Leagues. He joined the San Diego Padres the next day to make his MLB debut. In his first MLB at bat against the Montreal Expos, Ward hit a bases loaded double in front of a near sellout crowd at Jack Murphy Stadium on “Hat Night”. Ward once said while standing on second base and looking around the cheering stadium he felt at that moment his 8-year, long and difficult journey had been worth it.

On July 31, 1991, Kevin returned to Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia, this time as a major league player for the Padres taking on the Phillies. His mother and father, and 30 friends and relatives were in the crowd. The next day, Kevin said he was moved to tears by the scene the night before. “I just wanted to soak in the moment,” said Ward, whose parents for the first time watched him play in a major league game. “It’s still hard for me to believe. Ever since I was a kid growing up here, I dreamed about playing here. Now it happened.”

Kevin with his son, Ryan.

Ward played in 125 major league games over two seasons with the Padres. Kevin though, came to see a greater mission than baseball through his perseverance over the years. He was a devout Christian and is well remembered for using his celebrity by joining his teammates on Christian outreach missions in the USA and abroad.   Kevin’s core message, printed on the back of a baseball card and given to those he ministered was this:

God offers each one of us the free gift of Salvation, but we must each make a decision to accept the gift. The gift is Christ’s payment of our sins by His death on the cross…The Bible says we must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.” Please accept Christ today and join God’s eternal family, then dedicate every area of your life to his Lordship.

After baseball, Kevin and Christy settled into life in Coronado, California and were blessed with God’s miracle of children into their lives. First Catie, and then Ryan. Kevin also became involved in finance and the restaurant business becoming a partner in Greystone Steakhouse, a new restaurant in San Diego’s famous Gaslamp district. He and Christy were partners in a horse racing venture as well, even winning multiple graded-stakes races with his beloved horse “Skip to the Stone”. It was an endeavor that Kevin truly loved.

Kevin and his wife, Christy.

Kevin spent much of his time with his beloved children, preaching the word of God to them, and mentoring them in life, school and athletics. He loved taking them to Switzerland on business trips, teaching them to ski and coaching their sports teams. He continually offered and gave of his time and expertise to the kids’ teams to not only teach the fundamentals of athletics, but also the core lessons sport prepares us for in our lives. Lessons of leadership, hard work, determination, overcoming failure and setbacks, and being great teammates. Both Catie and Ryan exemplify these traits today not just as athletes at Coronado High School, but in their personalities as well. Of course, he passed on his love of Philadelphia sports teams to his children and took his family to several Philadelphia Eagles games over the last several years. Kevin was elated at the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory last year and took both Catie and Ryan to Philadelphia for the massive celebration parade. He absolutely cherished these moments with his wife and children, of whom he was exceedingly proud. He was a dedicated father and husband.

Ryan and Catie rooting for the Eagles with their dad.

Kevin was a staunch believer in God, Family, Country, Freedom and Liberty, and leaves us with his favorite Bible verse; Colossians 3:23

“Do everything heartily unto the Lord, and not unto man.”

Kevin is survived by his mother, (Pauiline, 92, of Doylestown, PA) his wife (Christy) and children (Catherine Rose Ward, 17, and Ryan Knight Ward, 15), and brothers (Robert, Dennis and David Ward).

A funeral mass will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado, CA, Monday, March 18th at 12p.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests all remembrances be made in Kevin’s name to the Pro Athletes Outreach Foundation, which exists to unite a community of pro athletes and couples to grow as disciples of Jesus and positively impact their spheres of influence. Or, to the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a program of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, designed to promote the growth of youth baseball and softball participation in the United States and around the world.

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