CRAWFORD | McKay readies for MLB Draft night, could be No. 1 pick
Louisville's Brendan McKay could be the No. 1 pick in tonight's MLB Draft. You can count on two things: A calm exterior, and him spending the night with his teammates.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – If you watched closely on Saturday, there was no hard-core dog-piling for Louisville All-American Brendan McKay. Celebrate all you want, he was told, but don’t you dare get involved in a dog-pile two days before the Major League Baseball Draft.
Seems smart. And as usual, McKay did the right thing.
“I was told that I wasn’t allowed to get in the middle of it,” he said, smiling. “I had to restrain myself from jumping in. I’ve done it multiple times in high school, but now to finally get to do it and get to go to Omaha, it’s a different feeling. . . . Being on the doorstep every year, just now, takes it to a whole new level.”
It doesn’t take long to realize that Brendan McKay comes at the game with a professional mindset. He has since his high school days. He’s the kind of guy who can be the best player on the team, the best in college baseball perhaps – and certainly the best two-way player, which he has been the past three seasons – without engendering jealousy from his teammates.
Read a feature on Brendan McKay from his hometown newspaper, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In fact, when asked what he wants to do for the Major League Draft on Monday night, McKay said he wanted a party with his teammates.
“We’re going to be here,” McKay said, speaking in the clubhouse after picking up the College World Series-clinching victory on the Mound Saturday. “I asked all the guys if they wanted to come and do another watch party like we did last year. I’ve got some family in town that will be here. I just want to spend it with the guys here who I’ve built a relationship with and been with through highs and lows. When things haven’t gone well, they’ve always been there to pick me up. … There are days when you aren’t you, but these are guys that will pick you up and give you motivation. That’s what you live for.”
Tonight’s party could’ve been a somber party. McKay understood that. Louisville coach Dan McDonnell has been through it, went through it a year ago after the team was down following a loss to Cal Santa Barbara in the Super Regional. But he also knows its important to celebrate these accomplishments, especially for the player he rightfully calls the best ever to play baseball at U of L.
“He said, Monday night we’re going to have a party,” McDonnell said .”And you could say, ‘What if you don’t win? Everybody’s going to be crushed.’ And I remember thinking, man, we’re going to run towards the roar. We don’t know what’s going to happen, and win or lose, we’re going to celebrate the draft Monday night. For the past few years we’ve been one of 16 teams dealing with the draft and playing at the same time, and I kept reminding our guys that there are 280 programs that would give anything to be in this position. So now we’re going to be one of eight teams still playing, and we have to embrace that and enjoy that opportunity.”
Jim Callis at MLB.com reported late last week that he believes the Minnesota Twins will take McKay with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
McKay told ESPN.com that he wants to both pitch and hit in the majors.
“A great game at the plate or a great game on the mound, it’s tough to choose,” he said. “If you have a player who can do both, maybe you give him that chance.”
Regardless, he says he’ll happily do whatever the club that drafts him wants him to do.
And therein lies the key with McKay. He’s one of the top hitters in college baseball. And he’s one of the top pitchers. He’s been the John Olerud Award winner for best two-way player for three seasons. His teammates call him “Babe Ruth,” after a legend who did both himself.
Before the season, Baseball America said McKay could be the best player to play college baseball in the modern era. And first McDonnell was surprised by that. Now he is embracing it.
But on top of all that, McKay has proven to be in three years at Louisville as good a person as you’ll find among college baseball players.
“What’s really cool about Brendan, Monday night is a celebration, and the players want to be here,” McDonnell said. “To me, the reason Brendan is arguably the best player to play college baseball is how much his teammates love him. There’s no jealousy. That’s not easy in today’s society. It’s what about me? What about my time? But these guys have no problem taking a back seat to him or sharing all the success with him, because they know how valuable he’s been to this program and they’re appreciative that they got to play with this guy.”
McKay is unflappable. He showed that again Saturday, buckling down when runners reached base, holding one of the best offenses in college baseball in check.
But he acknowledged that there will be some jitters on draft day.
“You’re going to be calm and put up a calm front, but inside, until you know where you’re going and your name is called, you’ve either got butterflies or just that waiting moment of when is my name going to be called?” McKay said.
But for the best player in Louisville history, the waiting is almost over. And once the draft begins Monday night, he shouldn’t have to wait long.
The MLB Network has a feature ready to run on him. Its draft coverage begins at 6 p.m. Its McKay feature could run as early as 6:05 p.m. When McKay is drafted, the MLB Network will interview him live.
“It’s going to be a great night for Brendan and this program,” teammate Logan Taylor said. “And nobody deserves it more.”
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