Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a two-part account about Ken Kendrick, a Princeton High School and WVU graduate who is now the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Princeton native Ken Kendrick has combined business savvy, opportunity, and a fan’s enthusiasm into professional sports success in Phoenix.

As managing general partner of the Arizona Diamandbacks, he’s just seen his team rise to the top of the National League West, and the Phoenix Suns, with whom he’s a minority owner, have just rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win their NBA opening round playoff series over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Combining the sports interest that he acquired while growing up in Princeton with the business savvy he learned from his father (the late Earl G. Kendrick), Kendrick is proof that high level success can be achieved while maintaining a low profile.

"He doesn’t wear a tie when he comes to work," noted Diamondbacks’ spokesman Mike Swanson. "He enjoys his family and he really cares about the people who work here in a family kind of way."

"I had some great times while growing up in Princeton," Kendrick recalled during a phone interview in his D-backs’ office. "I played all three sports (baseball, football, and basketball) in school, but I was probably best at baseball.

“My little league baseball coach was the late Joe Thorn (New Jersey Nets’ president Rod Thorn’s father). We played on a field that was next to a cemetery."

As a teen, Kendrick played on a baseball team that nearly qualified for the Pony League World Series. "That was probably my most vivid memory as a young player," he added. "We came up one inning short of reaching the World Series." Interestingly, Kendrick’s 2001 Diamondbacks gave him the opportunity to revisit and revise that memory.

Kendrick’s interest in major league baseball grew with each trip he took to Crosley Field in Cincinnati. "My pop took my brother (Rick) and me to some Reds’ games, and several times as a kid, we would travel to Hinton and catch the train to Cincinnati to watch a game."

Kendrick’s father, in addition to serving as Mercer County Sheriff, owned a pair of thriving Princeton businesses. "Pop was an entrepreneur and I got my business acumen from him," Kendrick explained. "He owned an Esso (now Exxon) gas station next to the courthouse, and he owned a men’s clothing store.

“When I was about 10 or 11, he let me work at the gas station and I began working at his men’s store when I was 16. I enjoyed the experience and liked the idea of owning my own business some day."

After high school graduation, Kendrick headed for Morgantown. "Pop was a die-hard West Virginia University fan, and it was the state university. A lot of my friends had decided to enroll there, too," he added.

When he arrived at WVU, Kendrick watched the Mountaineers’ basketball team continue an extended period of success, fueled in large measure by the productivity of his high school classmate, Rod Thorn. Interestingly, Kendrick lived in a fraternity house next door to Ray Lane, who became president of the Oracle Corporation.

After graduation, Kendrick accepted a position with IBM, but remembered the lessons learned while working for his father. "I still wanted to own a business, so I left IBM and founded Datatel (the nation’s leading provider of information management solutions for higher education).

"The first several years, we struggled and were very close to failing. Then, we signed a very large customer and investor, and the business took off."

Today, Kendrick is Datatel’s chairman. He’s also the principal shareholder and director of the Woodforest Financial Group, a bank holding company headquartered in Texas, and is a director in several other companies

As Datatel grew, Kendrick’s interest in sports, in general, and WVU sports, in particular, remained high. When the WVU football team played Notre Dame in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, Kendrick and his wife, Randy, traveled to Tempe, AZ to watch the Mountaineers.

"We really enjoyed the area,” Kendrick said. “In fact, we vacationed in Phoenix later that year and moved there shortly thereafter."

That move opened some doors of opportunity and challenge for Kendrick.

Editor’s note: On Sunday, Kendrick discusses how a prediction he made while in high school is fulfilled in Arizona.

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