Former MLB pitcher and 2006 World Series champion Josh Kinney put an end to his playing career almost a decade ago. In the years since, Kinney created his own business, Cardinal Country Logging and Sawmill LLC, changing his job title from professional athlete to professional timber harvester.
Kinney says he’s always been an outdoorsman. In fact, his love for the outdoors and hunting is how he decided where to play college baseball. Sitting in his high school study hall in Port Allegany, Pennsylvania, Kinney remembers looking through his college offers. He says he landed at Quincy University in Illinois because of the great buck hunting the area had to offer.
After four years of college ball in Quincy, Kinney was convinced he had pitched his last game. He says his car was packed and he was set to move back to his hometown in Pennsylvania to work at a fly-fishing tackle shop. However, his college coach Pat Atwell asked Kinney to try out for an independent professional team in O’Fallon, Missouri. Kinney agreed, and a short time after making the team in 2001, he signed a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
As Kinney worked his way up through the Cardinals organization, he spent time playing with the Springfield Cardinals. He met his wife, Jorni, in the Queen City while eating at Hemingway’s Blue Water Cafe.
In the 2006 season, Kinney says he got his first real chance with the St. Louis Cardinals and made the most of it, joining the postseason roster that year. He collected a win in the National League Championship Series and contributed to the Cardinals winning the World Series.
A short time after that 2006 season, Kinney says he purchased a farm outside Ash Grove with his over $300,000 World Series bonus. He was intrigued by the number of walnut trees that surrounded the property. He says he had no intention of getting into the logging industry when he bought the land. However, with the knowledge he had of the trade from his father’s logging business in Pennsylvania, he says he knew there was a good chance he could have a high return on investment with that property from the timber harvesting alone.
He describes the purchase of the Dade County farm as a “roll of the dice.”
“We purchased the farm when I was still playing for the Cardinals,” Kinney says. “I thought someday down the road, we’ll log off the trees and get a return on our money and it will be a good move.”
After living in cities like Seattle and Chicago and moving all around the country for baseball, and with almost 15 years of professional baseball under his belt, Kinney says he decided to retire from the sport and move to his Missouri farm. He knew he was done with baseball, but at that time he didn’t know his next move was to follow in the family business.
“I grew up around this,” Kinney says. “My dad logged. My grandfather owned a chainsaw shop. We had loggers on my mom’s side of the family.”
Kinney says the industry employed a lot of people where he grew up in north central Pennsylvania.
Between the time he purchased the farm and finished his playing career, Kinney says his father had died. With intentions to cut down just a few trees around his farm, he moved his father’s logging equipment to his Ash Grove farm and got to work.
“It was kind of nostalgic I guess,” says Kinney.
In spring 2015, Kinney began harvesting and selling the walnut trees around his property. Neighbors Amanda and Mark Amorose recall asking Kinney to harvest trees from their property.
Mark Amorose says he was impressed by the amount of information Kinney had on walnut trees when he was walking around their property. Beyond his ecological knowledge, Amorose mentioned Kinney’s down-to-earth personality.
“I think it’s probably his character that is making him successful,” he says. “He’s a very honest man.”
Kinney says after doing a job for the Amoroses, it took him two years of doing jobs here and there to realize logging was what he wanted to do for the rest of his career.
The importance of protecting the environment and wildlife is constantly in the back of Kinney’s mind. Amorose says unlike other loggers, Kinney respected the natural growth of the trees on his property as he wanted to cut away only what was necessary.
“It’s not just a job; you’re managing woodlots is what you’re doing,” Kinney says. “You’re having a direct effect on wildlife and forests for years to come.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of logging workers has been on the decline for years and is projected to decline an additional 4% in the next 10 years. However, Kinney says he and his two employees see opportunity in this community.
“If you do a good job for folks and you’re honest, transparent and open about business with them, they’re great to deal with,” he says.
Kinney says he sits down with each client to discuss what their objectives are and the details of the project. “Every job is different,” he adds.
At Cardinal Country, Kinney says he contracts out trucking needs to focus on making the business “small, precise and profitable.”
Operating his own sawmill, Kinney also sells walnut lumber and slabs commonly used to make furniture such as tables.
Kinney says he’s been able to transition from the daily life of an athlete and build a lifestyle he desired even during his playing career.
“I always wanted to walk away from the game with as much love as I had and passion that I played with, and to be able to move on as well,” Kinney says.
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