Jeff McKenzie had a wait a long time for his name to be called, but in the 28th round of Saturday’s Major League Baseball draft, the Chicago White Sox made his dream come true.
“Playing professional baseball has been my dream since I was 3 years old,” McKenzie said. “It’s been my only dream.”
McKenzie, 22, will graduate Friday from CSU Bakersfield with a degree in communications and on Saturday will report to either Bristol, Tenn. or Great Falls, Mont. to play in the White Sox organization.
McKenzie, a 2009 graduate of Oak Ridge High, had an outstanding year for CSU Bakersfield, winning 13 games, while losing only twice. His earned run average was only 1.88 and he pitched four shutouts and six complete games. In 114 2/3 innings, McKenzie struck out 88 batters and only walked 24, while opponents hit .245 against him.
Even in his two losses, McKenzie was solid. In his second start of the season Feb. 22, McKenzie scattered five hits and allowed one earned run in a 1-0 loss to Hofstra. In his final start of the regular season May 17, McKenzie allowed two earned runs in 8 2/3 innings, while striking out eight in a 2-1 loss to San Jose State.
“I was one out away from a 2-0 complete game shutout,” McKenzie said. “I had a couple wins during the season where I didn’t pitch as well as I did in that game.”
McKenzie was named the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and became CSU Bakersfield’s first All-American baseball player.
“I had a great year; I couldn’t ask for a better one,” McKenzie said. “I’m happy with how the team did and happy with how I did.”
A big key to McKenzie’s success came from his commitment to visualization, which was a big push from the coaching staff for pitchers and hitters alike.
“Visualization played a huge part in my success,” McKenzie said. “During the day when I should have been focused on class, sometimes I’d be visualizing myself pitching and seeing myself in different situations. Our coaches said it’s just as important as actually doing it and told us to be obsessed with it.”
Along with McKenzie’s 86 to 89 mile-per-hour fastball, curve and changeup that he threw last season, McKenzie added a cut fastball and slider to his repertoire this season, which also helped him succeed. It was a dream season, which ended with McKenzie’s dream of being a professional baseball player coming true.
“I’m kind of surprised at my year, but not really because I’ve always felt that I can perform at this level,” McKenzie said.
Mills also selected
* Jordan Mills, a 2010 graduate of Oak Ridge High, was also chosen in the 28th round of the draft, 16 picks prior to McKenzie. For more on Mills, pick up a copy of next week’s EDH Telegraph.