Austin Kearns, a Lexington native who spent 12 seasons in the majors, is joining Lexington Christian's baseball staff as a volunteer assistant coach next season.
The former Lafayette star, who led the Generals to three straight 11th Region titles and was named Mr. Baseball in 1998, will aid the high school team as well as LCA's junior-level development programs.
"I am excited to have Austin join the program," Eagles Coach Keith Galloway said in a news release. "He brings with him a terrific amount of knowledge that will benefit our student-athletes and I look forward to having him aboard."
Kearns, an outfielder who finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Jason Jennings and Apollo graduate Brad Wilkerson in 2002, said he is excited to get started.
"I had many coaches make an impact on me when I was growing up and I want to do the same for the young men in the Eagle program," Kearns said in the release.
Kearns, 35, returned to Lexington in May 2013 to be with his mother, who suffered a heart attack. At that time the Marlins placed him on MLB's restricted list.
"I don't think I ever signed any retirement papers but when I came home that was it," Kearns said in a phone interview. "I wasn't planning on going back."
He's since remained in the city helping with his sons' youth league teams.
"I love baseball," he said. "A lot of people taught me the right way to do things, stuff that I'll always remember. I just want to try to pass it along. Whether it's being in the stands helping or being on the field assisting, it doesn't matter."
Cincinnati selected Kearns with the seventh overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft. He made his big-league debut with the Reds in 2002.
Kearns spent his first four seasons in Cincinnati before being traded to Washington midway through the 2006 season. He remained there through the 2009 season.
He signed a free-agent contract with Cleveland in 2010 and was traded to the Yankees that same season. He rejoined the Indians the following season before being released in August of that year.
The Lexingtonian finished his career with Miami, where he played 106 games across 2012 and 2013.
Kearns owns a couple of noteworthy team records:
■ He was the first Nationals player to hit an inside-the-park home run, doing so against the Marlins on May 12, 2007.
■ He's the only Cleveland Indian to have been hit by a pitch three times in one game, matching a league record against the Rangers on July 5, 2010. Three Texas pitchers connected with a piece of Kearns' body.
Kearns finished his career with a .253 batting average, 121 home runs and 494 RBI. He played in 1,125 games.