He was only 9-years-old when Kourage Kundahl got his first dream job in baseball.
The Pensacola Pelicans needed a bat boy. Kundahl was raring to go. Eager and willing to work each summer night of games at the University of West Florida, which had its ballpark transformed back then into Pelican Park for the former Independent League professional team’s seasons.
“In 2005, that was my first tour of four seasons as bat boy,” Kundahl said, chuckling at the memory. “I just loved it. And I think it brought everything closer to the surface for me, because I was such a baseball fan. Living in Pensacola, the nearest Major League (Baseball) city was Atlanta, then you think Tampa Bay and that’s eight hours away, so it’s hard to feel connected to those teams.
“Having something like the Pelicans in your backyard, and I was playing first base for my youth team, and now I am able to watch someone who is a professional play first base, that meant so much. That was a great time.”
Now, he’s living an ultimate dream.
After working for three MLB teams – the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers – in social media roles, Kundahl recently became the director of digital content at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Kundahl, a 2014 Pensacola High graduate, whose encyclopedic knowledge of baseball was evident as teenager helping at Blue Wahoos games, is now at the most hallowed shrine and world archive center of the sport.
From the Pelicans to Cooperstown. He’s in the Hall of Fame.
“This is everything,” said Kundahl, reflecting on his meteoric rise across three teams. “It is kind of an aspiration of anyone who puts on a baseball uniform, at any age, to be great and do amazing things. And the inspiration you get in a place like Cooperstown just brings you back to those youth days.
“I think of playing in Bill Bond League in Pensacola, being a bat boy from the Pelicans, writing for the Blue Wahoos and being able to put that major league journey together and thinking of being a 7-year-old putting on a baseball uniform for the first time.
“It is special to see it all come together, after two decades of watching, living and loving the sport and now to be in the pinnacle of the sport as well.
Kundahl remembers first meeting Quint Studer, then the Pelicans owner, who embarked on a baseball business journey to form the Blue Wahoos franchise and bring MLB-level baseball talent to Pensacola for the inaugural 2012 season.
The two have stayed in contact since Kundahl left in 2015 to begin college at LSU.
“I owe my entire career to him,” Kundahl said. “It is very easy for someone in that position to say, ‘Hey kid, I’m trying to run a business. Pipe down, run off.’
“I have been fortunate to have a lot of doors partially open through his help and my job is work as hard as he did. Carry his values and show why you belong in that room. He has been an amazing leader to look up to. He has followed this journey of mine and always been very supportive.
“Through the Pelicans and Blue Wahoos, Quint created so many opportunities for fans, for jobs, for the community and for me.”
Kundahl’s mother, Juliet de Campos, is a Pensacola physician and orthopaedic surgeon. She is the Blue Wahoos front office team doctor, as well as the athletic teams’ doctor at Pine Forest High.
She graduated from the University of Southern California, where she began writing for the school’s newspaper, The Daily Trojan.
“I never even knew she was once a sports writer, which is amazing,” he said.
His father, Keith Kundahl, grew up in Washington state and works in the charter fishing business. The couple have been season ticket holders with the Blue Wahoos from the first season in 2012.
“They’ve had a profound influence on my life,” Kundahl said. “Dad would throw me batting practice right handed, then had a shoulder surgery and learned how to throw left handed so he still go to the cage with me.
“It was very important to have a mom and dad that did whatever it took to help me foster a love.”
His first Bill Bond youth team was named the Reds.
“At the time, I thought that because we had these Reds’ uniforms that we must on a minor, minor, league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, because why else would we have these uniforms?” he said, laughing at that memory. “The fact that the Blue Wahoos first affiliate (2012-2017) was the Reds, was just that ah-ha moment.
“That was the moment that baseball became the number one in my life again.”
While going through classes at Pensacola High, the Blue Wahoos began their first season in April 2012.
“I remember sprinting up the steps at the stadium that night, so I could see the National Anthem being sung and the Blue Angels flying over the stadium. It was just the most amazing feeling,” Kundahl said.
He began a blog called, “Hook, Line and Sinker,” providing all sorts of information on players and the team. He attended every game he could, working in a volunteer role to help out in the press box and begin developing his skills in social media, particularly with the platform formerly known as Twitter and now called X.
He became friends with area media members and Tommy Thrall, former voice of the Blue Wahoos, who now has that role with the Reds.
“Doing this blog in a place that people are looking at and were interested in, that was really empowering,” Kundahl said. “That was where I first saw the power that social media had.
“I was talking to Tommy a lot. I would find a good statistic and throw on social media. If the media relations team had an unpaid intern, it would have been me.”
Kundahl credits his time at LSU and courses he took for helping him improve writing skills that have benefited him during his professional career.
In 2017, he joined the Reds working as part of their so media team. He then worked for the Padres. The last two years have been in Detroit as the Tigers’ social media content manager.
“I think I have this right: If I count every game worked home and road between the teams, I’ve worked my 1,000th game in Major League Baseball,” Kundahl said. “We orchestrated a campaign for (Tigers star) Miguel Cabrera with this being his 21st and last season.
“It was a memorable summer watching him play and I couldn’t have picked a better way to go out than his final game.”
He has seen the entire realm of social media in professional baseball grow “leaps and bounds” from where Kundahl saw it start more than a decade ago.
“It’s now more about getting to know these players and show the other side of the them, beyond the field,” Kundahl said. “That is something that has really come into focus the last five years -- the story-telling power just on an individual level.
“For teams that, say, draw 40,000 fans at a home game. Suddenly it becomes a scale of millions and you can feel the power. It’s really important to see that passion past the walls of the city. That’s what makes social media special.”
He’s now doing that in a place with global reach.