Cole Kitchen

Santa Clara University |


Cole Kitchen faced a heartbreaking setback just before the start of the 2023 season. His younger brother, Cade, was hospitalized from an accidental drug overdose involving fentanyl.

Cole returned home to be with his family, but a short time later, Cade passed away. Cole was devastated, but this wasn’t his first experience with death. Five years earlier, Cole’s friend Jesse Esphorst (JE), a travel baseball teammate at the Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) was killed in a car accident. Since that day, Cole has written JE10 on his cap and GBG has JE10 embroidered on all player hats as a tribute to Jesse.

To help with the emotional pain of his brother’s death, Cole leaned on his family and the Santa Clara University sports psychology services. Other teammates, athletic department members, and friends shared their experiences with losing a sibling, helping Cole heal.

“I’m lucky to be surrounded by such a great support network at Santa Clara. Although time heals, this tragedy will never leave us,” said Cole.  “My family has tried to be very vocal to educate others about the circumstances that led to this tragedy. Last December, my father joined a Los Angeles police officer to give a presentation at my former high school on the dangers of fentanyl. We hope sharing our story can prevent other families from suffering.”

Despite the emotional turmoil, Cole found solace and purpose on the baseball field.

Channeling his grief into focus and with a pin affixed to his hat in honor of Cade, he emerged as the staff pitching ace, leading the Broncos to their first West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament title and first NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years. The senior righthander led the team with 16 starts and 81.3 innings pitched and was second with 68 strikeouts.

Cole’s excellence extends beyond the baseball field. He earned WCC All-Academic honorable mention honors, graduating last spring with a 3.5 GPA and a degree in bioengineering. He’s currently enrolled in the master’s degree program as he completes his final year of baseball eligibility.