Brock Netter, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — In life, there are a ton of people whom you cross paths with that make a lasting impression.
Perhaps no one fits that description better than Eli Kunkel.
If you were fortunate enough to ever talk with him, you walked away with a long-lasting memory.
Kunkel, who suffered from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which affects one person in one million worldwide, ultimately succumbed to the disease Sunday afternoon after a lengthy fight.
To take a quick trip down memory lane, I met Eli during Post 757’s Southern Swing trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. back in 2015. I had never talked to him before. I only knew him to be an outstanding baseball player.
The proof was in the numbers as he batted .445, which was fifth in the Scioto Valley Conference, and earned first-team all-district honors after his senior year at Adena, which included a Gold Ball.
As I got to know Eli during the week in South Carolina, I saw one of the best players on the field, yet also one of the most fun-loving players outside the lines.
He never shorted his teammates or coaches on effort at the plate, even on the most routine of ground balls where an eventual out was evident. And in the field, it’s still tough to find a better third baseman.
There was nothing he couldn’t do.
He had it all … fielding, hitting, passion, effort and the “it” factor.
Off the field, Eli was just Eli. And that’s the best way to put it.
I still remember the first conversation we had. I talked to him for about 10-15 minutes and at the end, as we were leaving, I said, “I’ll see you later, man.”
He responded, “You got it, Daddy.”
It threw me for a loop but when he said it, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. He called me “Daddy” the rest of the trip, and even four years later, I’ll never forget it.
That was just who Eli was.
He had a knack for making you flash a smile even on the worst of days. And if he had to use unorthodox ways to do it, so be it. You smiled and that’s what he enjoyed most … being around his friends, teammates, coaches and family, making them smile through it all.
Although that week was the first time I ever spoke to Eli, he immediately made a lasting impression that I’ll always remember.
Eli, you fought a great fight and it was an absolute pleasure getting to know you. Thank you for the memories.
Rest easy, 18.