Proud to be an All-American: McKinney selected for two national games
Being picked for a national all-star game is an honor any high school baseball player would be happy to have.
And Plano West senior outfielder Billy McKinney did experience that emotion when he was selected for the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game. But happiness was mixed with a sense of déjà vu as just a couple days earlier he had been chosen for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.
"I jumped out of my seat when I got those calls," McKinney said. "I'm excited to do both games."
The games are just as excited to have the 6-foot-1, 195-pound lefty on the roster.
"We first saw Billy at the Under Armour Pre-Season All-America Tournament," said Steve Bernhardt, Under Armour All-America Game selection chairman and Baseball Factory executive vice president of baseball operations. "He really stood out to our scouts as one of the best all-around hitters in the class and it should be a fun match-up to watch when Billy faces some of the most dominating pitchers in his class."
Those superlatives shouldn't come as a surprise to Plano ISD baseball fans.
McKinney exploded onto the varsity scene as a freshman in 2010, tying for the team lead in home runs during the regular season while hitting .440 with a .565 on-base percentage as he helped West advance to the Class 5A State Tournament.
"I've been coaching for 20 years," said Kendall Clark, former West head coach, in 2010, "and the only other freshman I've seen like Billy is Ryan Ford."
Ford was a senior at West when McKinney was a freshman.
"I've been keeping in touch with Ford and we were just talking about that now that I'm about to be a senior," McKinney said. "It's a little sad because the past three years have flown by and now I'm going to be the old guy on the team."
McKinney has accomplished plenty in that time, most recently making first team all-district as a junior despite having a dislocated shoulder for the bulk of the season.
McKinney's achievements at the varsity and summer baseball level garnered him the dual national all-star selections, the first of which is the Perfect Game All-American Classic on Sunday.
That game is set for 8 p.m. from PETCO Park in San Diego and will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network. McKinney said he will get to go home for, "A day or two," before heading to the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game, which is 12:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. That game, which showcases 36 of the country's best high school players, will be broadcast live on the MLB Network.
That may seem like a lot of travel, but it has been the story of the summer for McKinney, who has yet to be home in August.
The Wolves senior started the month in Farmington, N.M. as his summer team (D-BAT Mustangs-Dow) made for the 2012 AABC Connie Mack World Series after winning a qualifying tournament two months prior in Phoenix.
D-BAT Mustangs-Dow has fared well, advancing to the semis (final results not available at press time).
"We have some studs on this team," McKinney said. "We always stay focused, always play as a team and everyone seems to execute and get the clutch hits when we need them."
D-BAT's proclivity for winning has, however, kept McKinney away from home.
"That part can be a bit tough," he said. "I love being home and hanging out with my friends, but at the same time, I am really close with all the guys on this team and feel like I am developing some lifelong friendships."
The outfielder has developed another friendship while in New Mexico.
"We stay with a host family while we are out here," McKinney said. "My host parent (Oscar Amezcua) is a great guy and he travels out to the West Coast a lot, so he said he might go out to watch me play in San Diego."
How McKinney performs the next six days at the Perfect Game All-America Classic and Under Armour All-America Baseball Game might determine his baseball future. Seven players who participated in last year's Under Armour game were taken in the first round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, including No. 2 overall pick Byron Buxton.
"Of course going pro has been a dream of mine," McKinney said. "But I can't focus on that as much as I have to think about just playing how I'm capable. I'll be going against some studs, so I have to stay focused on keeping my composure, hitting and running, and then getting good reads in the field when the ball comes off the bat and making good throws."
Aiding in that pursuit is the fact McKinney's shoulder is almost back to 100 percent.
"I've been feeling pretty good since I've been in Farmington," he said. "The shoulder doesn't really ache anymore."
Once McKinney returns home, he can ponder another big decision: picking a college.
"A lot of guys have dream schools growing up, but I've never really had that," McKinney said. "It's definitely something I want to get done, but I haven't really had too much time to figure it out, so once I get back home I am going to start planning out some visits."
Making a college decision would cap off a remarkable few months for McKinney.
"Summer baseball has been awesome," he said. "It really has been a blessing to experience all of this."