Following an all-star caliber season with the Burlington Sock Puppets, the sport management major was recently recognized for his contributions to the community during the 2023 season.
Kenny Mallory Jr. ’25 remembers one of the first times he needed advice.
Today, the sport management major is coming off a successful collegiate summer baseball season with the Burlington Sock Puppets, earning a spot on the All-Appalachian League Team and an all-star game invitation.
But early in his baseball career, when he was 12 or 13 years old, Mallory recalls being in a brutal slump at the plate. The game he grew up loving to play wasn’t as much fun. His father, Kenny Mallory Sr. ’94, a former Elon baseball player, put his son in contact with longtime collegiate baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle ’92. Nearly a decade later, Schlossnagle’s reply still resonates with the current Elon baseball player.
“I was struggling and, to be honest, I was ‘over it,’” Mallory said. “And Coach Schlossnagle sent me this long letter and it changed my whole perspective on the situation – on baseball and life in general. That one moment has always meant a lot to me.”
Mallory keeps Schlossnagle’s words of encouragement in mind when he interacts with children today, whether the young fan is seeking an autograph or a conversation. That mindset – of being a strong role model – recently earned Mallory the Appalachian League’s Humanitarian of the Year award, recognizing his contributions to community service projects during the 2023 season. He was presented the award at an Aug. 25 ceremony at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
Mallory participated in several Burlington and Alamance County outreach programs, including the Sock Puppets’ Little League Takeover at Burlington’s Springwood Park and the team’s kids camp. His work in the community started before the first pitch of the season, reading to students at Elon Elementary the day before the Appalachian League’s season kicked off.
“As a kid, I remember looking up to athletes and baseball players, even if they were in high school, just a few years older than I was,” Mallory said. “We are all at that stage at one point of our lives when we are young looking up to others. And I want to help make an impact on kids’ lives because just a little bit of attention can have such an impact in a positive way.”
Mallory shares a simple message with youngsters: focus on effort, and success often follows. “I try to tell the kids that everything is not easy in life,” he said. “As long as you put your best effort into everything, you are going to be successful in some way.”
Four months later, Mallory fondly recalls the enthusiasm that greeted him and his teammates when they arrived at Elon Elementary – albeit having the Sock Puppet mascot in tow certainly didn’t hurt the reception. “That was an event that really stood out to me,” he said. “The kids were so excited to have us there, reading books and sitting with them in class. They were so happy and there was so much joy in the room.”
Khirey Walker, an assistant professor in the Department of Sport Management, has high praise for Mallory, explaining that he isn’t surprised by the student-athlete’s recent accolades.
“Kenny is truly one of the hardest-working, high-character guys I have ever had the opportunity to work with,” Walker said. “His drive, attitude and personality are all outstanding, but his best attribute is simply that he is an outstanding young man. His character speaks volumes about himself and he always wants to put his best foot forward, whether on or off the field.”
Mallory took Walker’s Contemporary Sport Management class last spring and the two further developed a relationship during Mallory’s SURE research project. As part of the project examining athlete-coach mentorship and relationship expectations in a Burlington youth baseball league, Mallory led more than 30 interviews with parents and coaches.
Walker credits Cayce Crenshaw, director of academic support services for Elon Athletics, for connecting the professor and student. It led to a “perfect partnership,” Walker said, where Mallory could examine an aspect of sport that he is passionate about.
“Kenny has so much experience with the game of baseball and he recognizes how vital accessible youth sports programming is within all communities,” Walker said. “Being able to take off the ballcap and put on the research hat really helped him gain perspective on how the game can grow and the potential opportunities to be immersed in the Alamance County and city of Burlington community.”
Walker said he appreciates Mallory’s commitment to his academics and his sport, explaining that Mallory wasn’t required to conduct research. He chose to do so and became fully invested in the experience.
“I think the impact of his summer is one that will open up the eyes of student-athletes and, hopefully, this will serve as a springboard to get more student-athletes involved with undergraduate research,” Walker said. “In his first year, Kenny has been an ambassador for what it means to be a student-athlete.”
As for his success on the field, Mallory relished playing in Burlington, not far from his campus. After some struggles during his Elon spring season, he said he focused on relaxing and enjoying the game when he joined the Sock Puppets.
The renewed mindset led to big results as the outfielder batted .295 in 46 games and led the league in runs scored, walks and stolen bases.
“The game can be stressful, and the more stress you put on yourself, the less you will enjoy it,” Malloy said. “This past summer I went into the season trying not to be result oriented and just enjoy the game and have fun. And having some success close to home made the experience even better.”