Unlike many young men awaiting their fate in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft, Blue Springs South graduate Tyler McKay heard his name called before he and his family expected it.
The 2016 Examiner Player of the Year – who spent three semesters at Kansas State before transferring to Howard College, a junior college in Big Springs, Texas, and was on his way to transferring to Arizona State – was updated on a regular basis by his agent on the third day of the draft.
“He told me I’d get a call soon, and it came sooner than my family and I expected,” said McKay, who was selected in the 16th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. “We were watching the draft at home and I was sitting the couch looking at my phone when it was announced the Phillies took me in the 16th round.
“It was pretty exciting – and pretty emotional. I got to share that moment with my mom and dad (Angie and Scott McKay) and I think it hit them harder than it hit me.”
When asked about the moment he realized he was a professional baseball player, McKay had to think a bit.
“It was either when I was walking through the Phillies locker room after they invited the draft picks to come see a game, or my first day at the Rookie League complex in Clearwater (Florida),” the lanky right-hander said. “It was pretty cool seeing all the big league guys in their clubhouse, but I think the real moment it hit me was when I walked into our clubhouse down in Clearwater and saw my No. 16 jersey hanging in a locker with my nameplate on it.”
He said the No. 16 has no relation to his 16th round selection.
“I wore No. 6 at Howard and I thought I was getting No. 6 with the Phillies,” McKay said, “but I don’t care what number I wear. I’ll never forget walking into that locker room seeing that jersey with my name it.”
McKay enjoyed a special senior season at South in 2016, as he threw two no-hitters, was 6-3 with 63 strikeouts in 49 innings, posted a 2.83 ERA and kept opposing hitters to a miniscule .198 batting average.
He also produced with the bat, hitting .300 with one home run and 15 RBIs, which earned him a spot on the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association All-State team.
“He was a gamer, a kid who loved the game of baseball,” South coach Ben Baier said. “As a coach, it’s always great to see one of your guys drafted. I couldn’t be any happier for Tyler.”
McKay went 8-3 with a 5.06 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 64 innings over 12 starts for Howard this spring. He had committed to Arizona State in April. Instead he signed his first pro contract with the Phillies on June 14.
McKay said the Phillies will use him as a starter.
“That’s the plan right now,” said McKay, who arrives at the park at 6:30 a.m., plays a game, then spends the rest of time perfecting the different parts of his role as a starting pitcher. “It can be a long day, but you’re playing baseball. If I could, I’d spend all day and night at the park.
“I am living a dream. My family and I have talked about this since I was a little leaguer and now, it’s all happening. And I’m going to work hard and do my best to make it all the way to the big leagues.”