By Kara Biernat
Ball State University
July 22, 2017
Together for four years across three organizations, the duo of Griffin Conine and Zack Kone were in no way surprised playing as one for the Cotuit Kettleers.
Conine and Kone first became teammates at Pine Crest School in Florida before joining forces at Duke and spending their summers in Cape Cod.
“I knew it was going to be fun being able to play summer ball with him and play a different type of baseball, to give us a break from playing at Duke,” Conine said.
Conine, from Weston, Florida, initially looked up to Kone, from Boca Raton, Florida, in high school and it’s easy to see why – Kone set Pine Crest’s all-time records in doubles, triples, home runs and total bases, while setting the single-season marks for hits, total bases and slugging percentage.
“In high school, [Zack] was a stud,” Conine said. “He was an animal. He definitely influenced me in the sense that I wanted to be better. We competed with each other and he pushed me to want to play harder in every aspect of the game and that carried over to Duke.”
Kone was the first to ensure a future playing Division-I baseball in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), committing to Duke as a sophomore. Conine, however, was unsure he would ever play ball at that level, let alone keep playing with Kone.
Turns out, Conine just needed an extra year to develop.
“Duke coaches would come out and watch [Kone] play after he committed and when I started to get a little better, a lot of their coaches got to see me play with him,” Conine said. “I knew I had got them, because Zack told me. I actually didn’t think I’d ever end up there.”
Conine committed to the Blue Devils after his junior season. Kone said their shared future set the stage for their senior season.
“Once Griffin committed to Duke, we got a lot closer,” Kone said. It was fun knowing that we would also be playing together after high school.”
Conine and Kone still had one more season at Pine Crest though, and they had to adjust to a new head coach – Wayne Stofsky.
“It’s funny because when you come into a new program as a coach, you never know what you’re going to get,” Stofsky said. “So having Griffin and Zack was definitely a blessing in disguise, and I use the term disguise lightly because I knew right away that I had two special high school baseball players.”
Conine already had some familiarity with Stofsky, a former college baseball player who was on a pair of College World Series teams at Louisiana State University in 1986 and 1987 before transferring to Florida Atlantic University.
“He was a family friend long before he got the coaching job and I pushed for him,” Conine said. “When I found out he wanted the interview, I pushed for him because he’s a great guy and an even better coach.”
Under Stofsky’s leadership, Pine Crest went from a losing record in 2013 to a 17-7 season and the top seed in the district in 2014 as he formed a bond with Conine and Kone that still goes strong. Stofsky watches most of their Cotuit games from the computer at home and checks the Duke box scores after every game they play. Stofksy even helped Conine at the 2017 College Home Run Derby.
“[Stofsky] actually gave me the bat I used for the home run derby in Omaha,” Conine said. “We both love coach Stofsky, he was a really great coach. It was just a great way to finish up high school ball.”
Stofsky’s ball experience also gave Conine and Kone a leg up on other college freshmen.
“It’s always good when you go off to a foreign place, to have at least one familiar face around you in that environment,” Stofsky said. “When I talked to them, most high school coaches can only send guys off and tell them what they think. I knew what they were getting into and hopefully the advice I gave them continues to pay off.”
Now that their familiar faces are just a few spots from each other in the Cotuit line-up, the pair of Kettleers enjoy being teammates, per usual.
“It just makes playing so much more fun,” Kone said. “We joke around a lot and try to keep things light. There’s a lot of times in baseball where it’s not light, so it’s nice to have someone there to joke around with, and take the pressure off.”
With summer ball season coming to a close, the duo returns to Duke in the fall to kick off their fifth year playing together.