KJ Kozens Takes Over American Legion Post 188 Baseball
By: Rich Maclone, March 28, 2014
American Legion Post 188 brought in an outsider to run the baseball team two years ago and it was not the success that they’d hoped for. There was a bit of disconnect between the staff and the players, and during that time the club began a bit of a downhill descent.
It didn’t take long for general manager Joe Prusakowski to bring the program back to its roots, and put a member of the family back in charge. Former 188 player and assistant coach KJ Kozens has been hired to right the ship and hopefully get the Upper Cape’s Legion program back to its previous heights.
Kozens is a certified baseball guy, with the game in his blood. His father, Ken Kozens, is the freshman team coach at Falmouth High, where he used to be the varsity coach before stepping down so that he could watch the end of KJ’s college career at Bowdoin College. The new head coach of the team played for Post 188 a decade ago on a number of good teams. His father also was the head coach at Post 188 until stepping aside before the previous coaching staff took over. KJ was one of his dad’s assistant coaches from 2009-2011.
Had his life not interfered, KJ Kozens may have gone for the head coach job at Post 188 right after his father. With a job in the corporate sector, in finance, he did not think that he would have the time to take on that kind of responsibility during the summer, and passed on going for the gig after passing his Series-7 exam.
He didn’t last long at that job, though. He realized pretty quickly into the experience that the world of finance was not for him. “It was doing the same monotonous things, day after day, with no end,” he said. “I hated it.”
He realized then that his first love was being around young people. Teaching seemed the natural route, but without yet being certified he thought that the process might take a while to get off the ground. Fate intervened, though. A job opened up in New Hampshire, at the New Hampton School, and he impressed the higher-ups there and was quickly hired at the school. With New Hampton being a private school, he was not required to be certified to teach there. “Two weeks later, I was teaching and coaching,” he said.
After two years at New Hampton, Kozens learned of a job opening at Bourne High School. Now certified, he was qualified to take a position as a history teacher there, and again he jumped back into coaching, as well as teaching. He serves at BHS as the junior varsity baseball coach and also is the assistant coach for the Canalmen’s ice hockey squad.
Kozens can’t wait for the high school season to get going, which it will in the next few days. He’s also got June 6 circled on his calendar, because that’s the day that Post 188 will begin the legion season at home, at Sandwich High School, against Wareham.
The new Post 188 coach said that he’s been lucky to have had great mentors as coaches during his way up and hopes that he’ll be thought of by his players the same way that he thinks of his father, Bob Corradi, Bob Allietta and Mike Connolly. His dad was his high school coach, Corradi and Allietta were his legion coaches and Connolly was his college coach at Bowdoin.
“They’re all old school, and they believe in hard work first. Wins come because you’ve put in the work first, and that’s how I try to coach,” he said.
Kozens believes that the wins will come because he plans on having a team that buys into that philosophy. He’s already contacted most of the area high school coaches and hopes to build strong relationships with them all in order to help make their players better, and to get them exposure for college teams.
“Playing college baseball was one of the best experiences I ever had,” Kozens said. “I want to help make sure that the kids on the Cape get to showcase their skills. It’s a great opportunity for them to get looked at by colleges.”
Post 188 typically draws from the Upper Cape area, with Sandwich, Bourne, Falmouth and Mashpee being the main recruiting area that the players hail from. He said that he does not want to make the team one-town specific and that the players improve by playing with the best that each town has to offer.
The season runs from early June into mid-July with the team playing usually four to five games per week during that time before the competitive Zone 10 playoffs begin.
“I’m excited about it. This is an opportunity to bring together kids that want to get better. They’re sacrificing time during the summer to pursue a game that they love,” he said.
Kozens said that he is still putting together his coaching staff. He hopes to have his assistants lined up in the next few weeks so that, come the first day of practice, everything is in line to help get the local program back to where it is used to being.