Coming out of high school in Washington, Ill., Mason McCoy was overlooked and under-recruited. He had no college offers to play baseball and decided to apply to Illinois Central College to pursue a nursing career.
Illinois Central coach Brett Kelley offered him a spot on the team. He hit .390 (2014) and .382 (2015) in two seasons at the junior college and was twice named a NJCAA All-American. He transferred to Iowa where he performed so well the Orioles selected him in the sixth round of the 2017 draft.
“I’ve always kind of been that way. I’ve always kind of been the under-the-radar guy,” McCoy said on Glenn Clark Radio June 7. “It’s been that way since the beginning, kind of overlooked, maybe undervalued. … I’m kind of used to it by now. So, I wasn’t really worried about it. I had to go in and play my game and the rest will take care of itself.”
After signing with the Orioles, McCoy was assigned to the Short Season-A Aberdeen, where he played well, producing a .301/.382/.409 line. His production tailed off in 2018 when he was moved up to the Delmarva Shorebirds (.266/.331/.369), but he was promoted to High-A Frederick to begin 2019. He hit .379/.416/.509 with the Keys and was promoted to Double-A Bowie. McCoy, a shortstop, is hitting .323/.394/.449 with the Baysox.
“Sometimes it’s like that,” McCoy said of his hot start to the season. “The beginning of last year I started off really, really rough. I think I was hitting like .210 through my first 100 or 120 at-bats and then the last three months of the season I hit around .300. So, you just try not to get started in a hole and dig yourself a hole. So I just kind of started a little bit hotter this year.”
McCoy attributed his improvement to a more structured offseason regime, something he wasn’t used to in 2017, his first true offseason after college.
“I didn’t know when to hit or when to throw. I didn’t know how to do any of that,” McCoy said. “So, I kind of guessed and I didn’t feel like I hit enough before spring training started and I didn’t feel comfortable once the season started.”
This offseason, he started training earlier and honed his approach.
“Once I got to spring training I immediately felt better,” he said. “I wasn’t striking out a lot. I was seeing a lot better pitches. I was hitting my pitch when I got it. That was the biggest thing I tried to focus on early before the season started. So once I got there and spring training started to feel a little better and continued to roll it into the season.”
McCoy said he takes pride in his work ethic, something he attributes to being underappreciated coming out of high school. He constantly asks questions to coaches, teammates and umpires to find a competitive edge.
“That’s how it’s always been. When I came out of high school nobody recruited me because I didn’t have the arm strength,” he said. “That’s what they all said or said I was a front-foot hitter. So I really busted it to work on those things to try to show them that they were wrong and prove them wrong.”
With the Orioles in rebuild mode, many of the young prospects in Baltimore’s farm system, including McCoy, sense an optimism permeating throughout the system that makes players feel their call-up to the majors could happen at any moment.
“Some people, when you’re in Low-A, you feel like you’re really, really far away, like you’re a lot of steps away from making it up there. So, maybe it’s not as easy for someone to get up every day and get excited to play today,” McCoy said. “But I do agree that [an] organization like this, they’re trying to push guys. They’re trying to challenge people and get the best players they can up there as quick as they can.
“I think that’s something that makes it easier to come out every day.”
For more from McCoy, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Bill Vaughan/Bowie Baysox