My husband and I, who are sitting across from Mike and Regina, strike up a conversation. It is our first time at Dosey Doe, but they have been coming here for years. They are celebrating the 21st birthday of their daughter Kenna Danielle, who is friends with Bri Bagwell.
I look over at the cute blonde with bright eyes and big dimples, expecting her to be just a hometown fan. No, she’s a little more than that. She, too is a singer and songwriter, and less than an hour later, she is introduced by Bri and joins her on stage. Mike and Regina are grinning ear to ear with proud parent smiles as they watch their daughter perform and hear the crowd’s applause. They have been doing this since Kenna was 12.
Kenna Danielle isn’t the only rising star in the Kasowski family, though. A few minutes into our conversation, I learn that one of Kenna’s brothers is a pitcher on the taxi squad for the LA Dodgers. A quick Google search tells me that Marshall Kasowski isn’t just a Big League wannabe. He has quite the story.
It isn’t every day you run across an ordinary family – Regina is a self-employed accountant and Mike is a regional sales manager for Liebherr Cranes – that can boast of multiple members who are making it in “spotlight” careers such as music and professional sports. It takes a special combination of talent, hard work and sacrifice, and a lot of love and support for one another to make it work; and the Kasowskis of Conroe have it.
A love of music and baseball runs deep
Music and baseball run in the family. Regina’s dad was a baseball player in the 50s and 60s. He attracted the attention of some pro scouts before joining the navy, where he was on a navy baseball team that played against Satchel Paige in Japan. Mike came from a family of musicians. His mother’s family had their own country music and Polish dance band, and he played trombone through 11th grade.
Mike and Regina’s oldest son Justin inherited both talents, playing sports and playing trombone throughout high school. Not so for the younger two, according to Kenna.
“Marshall, he has no musical talent whatsoever. He can’t even carry a tune! But then, I am probably the clumsiest person I’ve ever met, and I know nothing about baseball. I don’t even know how to throw a ball, much less how to give it form! It’s amazing we’re even related, because we’re so different in that way, but we get along so well,” she said with a laugh.
Kenna got her first guitar for her 11th birthday (which she had been asking for since she was eight). Regina explained what happened next, “I told Mike, let’s just go ahead and get her some lessons, so she can get it out of her system, not knowing we were opening Pandora’s Box and it would become her life!”
It wasn’t long before Kenna was playing for family friends’ parties, then began performing on open mike nights at Dosey Doe. Soon, she was being regularly booked to open for other musicians in the area and eventually began to get her own gigs.
Marshall started playing baseball when he was four, and Regina claims his first complete sentence was “Play with me ball.” While other kids were playing tee-ball, Marshall could play without the support of a tee and, pretty soon, he began pitching–which he is still doing today.
The uphill climb and overcoming life’s curveballs
The pursuit of big dreams hasn’t come without challenges for the Kasowskis. When Kenna was 13, she was diagnosed with a bone tumor, and it was almost a year before she could walk again.
“Her guitar was her comfort – it always has been,” Regina explained. “When we went to the hospital the morning of her surgery, she had her guitar and kept it with her all the way until they wheeled her back to the operating room.”
Marshall has had to push through even more hurdles and setbacks. Despite playing on a select travel team, he didn’t make his high school team until his junior year. His senior year, he was put on the team, but then got mono in January, leaving him as just a reliever. In his junior year of college, he got into a major car accident then had to have gall bladder surgery several months later, which kept him out for the season. Nevertheless, he bounced back and went to summer league in Wisconsin, where he was named Pitcher of the Year. His University of Houston scholarship was discontinued, so he transferred to West Texas A &M, where he broke all the school’s strike-out records and ended up as their Co-athlete of the Year. He was drafted by the Dodgers when he was 22.
“You keep following your dream. Whatever comes your way, you try and build off it, rather than letting it drag you down,” he said.
Providing loving support from behind the scenes
While the kids were growing up, Regina said they wondered at times if she and Mike were good parents, taking Kenna to her gigs at bars, but both Marshall and Kenna say they wouldn’t have made it this far without their family’s support.
Marshall expounded, “Each step along the way, they have been there for me. Letting me play in club baseball and on a select travel team, providing emotional support when I didn’t make my high school team, then getting me lessons to help me advance my abilities. When I finally made it, I couldn’t believe it, and my parents have been there for me the whole time. I know they worked very hard, and I don’t take it lightly.”
As for Justin, he jokes that he is “the invisible brother,” choosing to follow in his dad’s footsteps into the crane business, rather than seeking the spotlight. Justin says he was happy for Marshall when he was drafted by the Dodgers “even though I’m an Astros fan” and is glad his siblings are living their dreams. Marshall says he and Justin stay in touch behind the scenes, sharing text message jokes and memes that remind them of growing up.
“When we would be off school for the summer and mom was working, we would do crazy things together. One time, we had an airsoft gun war in the house. We had a solid go for about a week before our parents started finding the evidence, like BBs in the bed and chips in the wall,” Marshall elaborated, laughing.
Marshall and Kenna are also close, despite not seeing much due to their travel schedules, and he brags about her on Instagram and Facebook.
“We all love each other so much, and that’s what’s fun about it,” Kenna said.
Pushing through the pandemic and beyond
Just six months after Kenna graduated from college with a double major in guitar and vocal performance, and not long after Marshall got to Big League Camp, COVID-19 hit, and the entertainment industry – including major league baseball and music venues – took a big hit. Many of Kenna’s live performances were canceled.
“A lot of the places are closed, not booking, or not legally allowed to book me. So it’s a weird game right now,” Kenna explained. I’ve done a few outdoor events, but most of them have been smaller scale. If anyone is booking at all, they aren’t booking very far out, because they don’t know what the situation will be.”
With pandemic restrictions in place, Kenna works during the day as a billing representative for a chiropractor. That doesn’t mean she is not active in the music industry, though. She recently entered into a short-term sponsorship with guitar manufacturer Kepma, and she spends her evenings and weekends writing songs and recording. She stays in front of her fans via social media.
“Right now, I am focused on the creative side of things, a little bit behind the scenes, but also doing livestreaming and creating content like videos,” she said.
Marshall just completed his degree in finance, but has no intention of using it just yet. He was injured in August and, after minor elbow surgery, he has been focused on working out and making sure he is ready to go in 2021.
“I’m not sure what will happen. They don’t know if they’re going to push the season back or cancel some games. They are even talking about getting rid of the minor league season, which would impact me. I’m not going anywhere. My goal is to just stay healthy and be ready for the opportunity, whenever it will come.”
“Marshall loves the game,” Mike said about Marshall’s drive for success and lack of a backup plan. “He will never quit baseball. They will have to quit him. He is not the athlete that was always great and just coasted along. He has always worked harder to always get better.”
In December, all the Kasowskis gathered together in Conroe for an outdoor house party with family and close friends. Kenna played for the group, but Marshall just liked being home and away from the spotlight.
“Going home grounds me,” he explained. “It’s nice to be around people who know me for my core, not just for what I do.”