My grandmother raised me and my two sisters. I knew my mom and my dad, but they were in the military, so my grandmother was by far the biggest influence on me.
Everything I am is because of her. She taught me everything I know. She was a disciplinarian when necessary, too. I got quite a few whippings, but she always spoke the truth. My morals, my sense of respect and my work ethic come straight from her. I can look back and credit her for everything that I accomplish in life.
I got into baseball because of her, too. I had a knack for throwing things. As a little kid I was always in the driveway throwing rocks and hitting stuff. My grandmother picked up on that and steered me into T-ball, mostly as a way to keep me off the streets and out of trouble.
The neighborhood I grew up in, Callahan, Fla., wasn't the best. It's about 30 minutes from Georgia and about 15 minutes from Jacksonville. It was a "druggish" neighborhood, a lot of people dealing drugs. They didn't mess with us, though. The one thing that kept me away from that stuff was I knew my grandmother would beat my behind if I ever got into that kind of trouble.
I also had a bit of a temper growing up and she worked with me on that. Pretty soon, with her help, I realized that you need to behave a certain way and control yourself if you're going to achieve the things you want in life. She helped me become a better person.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from her is that nobody is going to hand you something in life; you have to get out and work for it. I loved baseball so much I didn't mind the hard work, though. I knew I could play. I had some success at every level and fell in love with the game at early age. I just wanted to play, play, play.
Even after I left home, she was always there for me. I'd talk to her on the telephone. It just made her happy that I was doing something that I loved and working hard to achieve my goals. I had friends and cousins who have had opportunities that didn't work out for various reasons. For me, I knew I loved baseball and I didn't want to let anything come between me and that.
Talking to my grandmother was good for me. She was the one person I could confide in and know that I was getting the truth in response. She wasn't the type who would tell you what you wanted to hear. She kept me on the straight and narrow and pushed me to keep going and to work hard.
She was so happy for me when I finally reached the major leagues last year. I had some pictures that a friend had taken, so I wrote a note to her on the photos, telling her how much I love her and how she made me what I am. That made her cry. She never saw me play in person but she found so much joy watching me on television. She was very old school. She didn't like to fly and rarely left home. Just near the end when she had to go to the hospital.
I found out she had lung cancer about two or three weeks after last season was over. She had smoked for a long time. She didn't tell me about it for the longest time. My sister finally told me. So I went back and visited with her and about a week after I left she passed away. I was initially waiting until Thanksgiving to see her but I'm glad I went as soon as I did. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had the time to see her and tell her how I really felt about her.
So I have no regrets now. She told me that it was her time and she wasn't afraid to be going because it was was God's will. She told me that all her work here on earth was done.
I also got married during the offseason. So I had one strong woman leaving my life and another coming in to help me. Not that Jody could ever replace my grandmother because they have different roles. But I love her to death and she's just like my grandmother in a way -- she's very truthful and doesn't let me get away with things. I respect that. Jody is a smart woman and she has a sense of direction. We both know what we want out of life and that makes it fun.
I only knew Jody for eight months when we got married but, for me, I know when it's right, it's right. It felt right. When my grandmother was leaving my life, she came in. She's picking up all of the slack. Now she's the person I talk to and confide in. Like my grandmother, she doesn't just tell me what I want to hear.
My relationships with the rest of my family have been growing closer since my grandmother passed, too. I talk with my older sister, Christina, and my mother all the time now. My grandmother was the glue to our family and when she died we needed to all come together. My sister is like my grandmother, too. She also speaks her mind.
I won't be able to speak with her on the telephone but my grandmother will remain with me this season. She'll always be looking down from heaven on me. She knows what I'm doing. She's looking at me right now and smiling because I'm doing a good job of living my life and I want to keep doing a great job for her. I am the all the things that she was, so she lives through me.
Howie Kendrick, a 10th round draft pick in 2002 who has risen to become one of the Angels' top prospects, batted .285 with four homers and 30 RBIs over two stints with Los Angeles in 2006. He batted .359 in 292 minor league games.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.