Ex-Bear hurler McKenna adheres to editor’s advice, ‘Go West, Young Man’ Go West!’

Ex-Bear Trevor McKenna heads to the Arizona Diamond Backs as undrafted free agent pitcher Monday morning.

BASEBALL

22-year-old southpaw will board a flight

Monday morning in Tampa headed for

Scottsdale to pitch for the Arizona D-Backs

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

“Go West, Young Man, Go West” was an expression first used by John Babsone Lane Soule in the Terre Haute Express in 1851.

Horace Greeley

It appealed to Horace Greeley, who rephrased it slightly in an editorial in the New York Tribune on July 13, 1865: “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”

The advice 153 years later is apropos.

Trevor McKenna

Brooksville’s Trevor James McKenna received a phone call Friday from an Arizona Diamond Backs scout, who followed his career at Division I-Savannah State University, to do just that.

Hudson Delinsky asked the ex-Central Bears southpaw a simple question, “Do you still want to be an Arizona Diamond Back?”

Of course, replied the 6-foot, 200-pound Brooksville native.

With that, the 22-year-old McKenna, who recently graduated summa cum laude with a 3.8 grade point average, with a bachelor’s degree in business management, will hop on a flight Monday morning headed to Scottsdale, Arizona.

Once in Scottsdale, he’ll make a short trip to the Diamond Backs headquarters to sign as an undrafted baseball free agent with the National League squad.

After a physical, he’ll be fitted for his uniform and learn his next destination: either rookie ball in Montana or possibly second-half Class A ball in Oregon.

All this for the Tigers’ ace of last three seasons.

At SSU

Trevor McKenna vs UCF.

From 2016-18, McKenna posted a combined 6-17 won-lost mark with a 5.27 earned run average.

Across 211.2 career innings pitched, McKenna yielded 211 hits and 109 walks against a team-best 186 strikeouts.

Though the Tigers finished 7-34 this season and lacked consistency on defense, McKenna caught scouts’ attention with a fastball that was originally clocked at 87-88, but improved to 91-92.

Across 41 D-I appearances, he turned in 36 career starts.

McKenna 101

McKenna has taken a circuitous route to reach the “The Show.”

Trevor was born in Brooksville to parents Dennis and Linda McKenna.

The McKenna’s have called Brooksville home for 22 years after relocating from New York.

Ironically, the elder McKenna was once a semi-pro pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

McKenna was a four-year letter winner for the Bears under skipper Al Sorrentino.

Al Sorrentino                                                 Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

He was solid enough to named All-Hernando County in 2013 and 2014.

At Central Park, McKenna hit a modest .263 with 33 runs batted in across 75 tilts.

His bread ’n butter wasn’t at the plate, it was on the bump.

In four prep seasons, McKenna posted a combined 14-20 won-lost slate, amassing 194 punchouts through 176.1 innings pitched.

Leesburg-Lake Sumter State College Hawks

After high school, he eventually signed with Lake Sumter State College in Leesburg.

“It was a little different there,” recalled McKenna. “After I came on, the head coach left for another program. Then the new coach utilized me as a closer. That was a different experience. Though I was new to closing out games, I didn’t do terrible.”

After one year, he departed the Lake County program and didn’t know what his step was going to be. He even pondered attending Pasco Hernando State College.

A scout happened to see him at a Show Case event on his birthday: May 17.

In two innings, he retired five of the six batters he faced via strikeouts.

After the game, the scout introduced himself and told him he was throwing 87-88 mph.

The scout liked what he saw and called Savannah State’s head coach.

Savannah State University Tigers

The Tigers’ skipper offered him a full scholarship based solely on the scout’s advice and immediately signed him.

In Savannah, McKenna quickly fell in love with the campus.

“It’s a small campus, but that’s what I was looking for,” recalled the brown-tressed and brown-eyed McKenna. “A lot of kids get lost in bigger schools. It’s the type of environment where I knew everyone and everyone knew me.

“… The campus is only 10 minutes from the beach and eight minutes from downtown. For me, it was a perfect fit.”

He chose to study business because he enjoyed the notion of managing and leading people through a joint venture.

When he arrived on campus, he was penciled in as the team’s No. 2 starter.

But after only one week, he was elevated to the staff ace and pitched mostly on Fridays.

Trevor McKenna (25) and best friend and teammate  Gregory Smith

Key moments

Several key moments dominated his rise.

During the summer before his junior season, McKenna played in the Carolina/Virginia League and pitched against Team USA.

In two innings, he faced some of the nation’s best players and retired every batter.

“I remember looking up and seeing about 30 (radar) guns starring back at me. That’s when I started getting noticed,” he said.

Just prior to his senior year, he dropped some weight, but his velocity hadn’t increased. It was still hovering at 87-88.

That’s when SSU utilized the new Drive Line pitching system, gradually using heavier balls for velocity improvement.

During the season, McKenna immediately saw a difference.

He was clocked throwing 92 against Mercer and 91 mph when the Tigers visited the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

On the tools at his disposal, McKenna says he can throw six different pitches, commanding his fastball to either go up or down, or in or out, besides his four-seam slider and utilizing his best pitch: his change-up.

Imagine how Greg Maddox utilized the entire repertoire during his fabulous career or how John Smoltz morphed into a solid reliever after his fastball tailed off – that’s who McKenna takes after.

Rewinding his South Carolina experience, “Overall, it was great. My head coach and all our coaches really helped me. I felt like I was playing in an open door – I saw a lot of guys come and go.

“… Still, I was able to pitch in Orlando against a very good UCF team. A lot of my old friends from Central that were attending school there came by and saw me,” added McKenna. “That was a great experience.”

One of his highlights this season was racking up 15 strikeouts in seven innings at North Carolina Central.

“I noticed someone was filming the game,” recalled McKenna. “I contacted the head coach there and asked if there was any way I could get a copy of the video. My dad wasn’t there that game and I just wanted to share it with him.

“Sure enough, the next time we played them the head coach came over and handed me a flash drive with the entire video of the game. It was a selfless act on his part. I’ll never forget the coach.”

After the season, Delinsky, who had remained in contact with McKenna, asked him if he still wanted to play major league ball. If so, at what price?

McKenna explained, “I’d play for a peanut ’n butter and jelly sandwich. I just want the opportunity.”

He came home from school on May 11 and realized he had only a 20-30 percent shot of getting drafted.

McKenna stayed busy giving pitching lessons to 13-14 year-olds.

On Monday, ex-Tampa Bay Ray pitcher Seth McClung asked he wanted to pitch in a pickup game against some Class A Phillies.

So last Tuesday, he headed to Clearwater and hurled two scoreless innings and struck out two.

He wanted to be ready in case the call came.

The draft, unfortunately, came and went without a suitor.

“I was a little depressed, a little upset,” shared McKenna, after not getting a call to be drafted.

That lasted until Friday.

While he was in Tampa with his girl friend of three years, Weeki Wachee product Allison Sannuto, who was trying to cheer him up, when he received the good news from D-Backs.

“Allison pressed her ear right to the phone; she heard everything Hudson said,” recalled McKenna. “Then she started crying. That’s when I called my parents. I told them to put it on the speaker (phone). With both of them listening, I told them, I’m a Arizona Diamond Back.

“Mom instantly posted it. She’s always on Facebook. Over the next 3-4 hours, I got calls and text messages from people I haven’t spoken talk to in years,” grinned McKenna. “I even talked to Coach Harding, he said I was the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player to be drafted.”

McKenna’s feet haven’t touched the ground since.

“Since Friday, It’s like I’ve been floating in air,” expressed McKenna. “This is crazy; it’s actually happening. This is what I wanted to do since I was little.

“…I’m been pacing all weekend. It’s weird, I don’t know where I’ll end up. I do know at 7 in the morning I’ll be bound for Arizona. It’ll be a 4:15-hour flight – that’s all I know.“

Trevor McKenna is mentoring this deaf teenage pitcher, who also suffers from being bullied.i

Overcoming getting bullied

The journey to Scottsdale has had pot holes.

McKenna described what it was like being bullied when he was young.

“When I was younger, I was chubby. I was bullied. I remember one night watching a show called, “13 Reason Why” and how I could relate to girl who told her story,” indicated McKenna. “There are a lot of people who struggle with getting bullied; I was one of them.

“It’s weird, but I have to thank them (bullies) now; because of them they’ve made me an even stronger person. It’s funny on how things work out in the end.”

McKenna also explained that he has helped mentor a teenager, who is a deaf pitcher, who has also been bullied.

He didn’t want to identify the young man, but admitted to making a video and sending it to him reinforcing the message that anyone can overcome a bully with some help.

Before hopping on a plane, McKenna celebrated with friends and ex-Bears at a local pizza parlor.

“This is the moment I’ve long waited for,” he described. “Money has never really factored into my equation. Thanks to a trust fund that my parents and grandparents set up for me and a full ride to college, I’m graduating college literally debt-free. How many times does that ever happen?

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is get my foot in the door (to baseball). I want to make my friends – like Christian Arroyo – and Brooksville proud,” he said.

On what his legacy will be, “I want to be known as a pitcher who gets outs,” he said sternly. “In college, my teammates called me a dog. I never gave up, regardless of the situation. I have relentless energy.

“…When I was a sophomore and played against Seton Hall, my third baseman, made like five errors. None of my teammates goes into a game wanting to make an error,” he added. “I just told him to get the next guy. That’s how I tried to influence my teammates; by staying positive. I remember pitching seven innings in that game.”

On the unlikelihood that the opportunity with Diamond Backs falls short, “That’s why I wanted to get my degree,” insisted the well-rounded McKenna. “That’s my backup plan. If this doesn’t work, I’m literally worry-free. I can always fall back on my degree. I’ve seen too many people with no backup plans. If nothing else I’ll gain the experience with new friends, meet new teammates and meet different people in my life.”

Somewhere in the heavens, Mr. Greeley is smiling back at McKenna.

By the Numbers:

Central’s Trevor McKenna (2011-14)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

HITTING

 

YEAR

 

GP

 

AB

 

R

 

H

 

2B

 

3B

 

HR

 

RBI

 

.AVG

2011

12

23

6

5

0

0

0

1

.213

2012

15

37

6

11

2

0

0

9

.297

2013

21

62

5

17

1

0

0

8

.274

2014

27

83

5

21

6

0

0

15

.253

 

TOT

 

75

 

205

 

22

 

54

 

3

 

0

 

0

 

33

 

.263

PITCHING

 

YEAR

 

AP

 

GS

 

CG

 

IP

 

H

 

R

 

ER

 

BB

 

KO

S

0

 

W

 

L

 

ERA

2011

12

5

0

28.1

23

21

11

28

40

0

1

3

2.72

2012

9

9

1

34.1

26

32

19

35

41

0

2

7

3.87

2013

13

11

3

55.0

51

41

28

42

56

1

3

6

3.56

2014

12

11

4

58.2

40

24

14

32

57

4

8

4

1.67

 

TOT

 

46

 

36

 

8

 

176.1

 

140

 

118

 

72

 

137

 

194

 

5

 

14

 

20

 

2.90

By the Numbers:

Savannah State’s Trevor McKenna (2016-18)

PITCHING

 

YEAR

 

AP

 

GS

 

CG

 

IP

 

H

 

R

 

ER

 

BB

 

KO

S

0

 

W

 

L

 

ERA

2016

14

12

2

71.1

77

52

44

38

57

0

2

4

5.55

2017

14

12

1

65.0

66

44

33

37

51

0

2

6

4.57

2018

13

12

0

75.1

68

68

47

34

78

0

2

7

4.18

 TOT

41

36

3

211.2

211

164

124

109

186

0

6

17

5.27

 

 

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