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ONE STEP CLOSER: McKay & Uhen

ONE STEP CLOSER:  Connor McKay

Texas Rangers / Spokane Indians (Class A – Short)

McKayMequon, WI – After his senior season at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, CO, outfielder Connor McKay turned down his 24th round selection by the Colorado Rockies in the 2011 MLB Draft and chose instead to attend the University of Kansas with hopes of getting a second chance to get drafted in the following years. But after starting more than 30 games and posting consistent offensive numbers in each of his first three seasons with Jayhawks, no team had McKay high enough on their lists to select him. Bruised and disappointed, McKay caught on midway through the Chinooks championship season of 2014 intending to once again show MLB scouts he was worthy of a selection. After settling in, McKay hit .255 with four home runs as Lakeshore raced to the title.

Upon returning to Kansas for his senior season, McKay led the Jayhawk offense and as a first-team Big Twelve selection ranked in the conference’s top five for batting average, hits, runs, and total bases while leading the league with 22 doubles and a .535 slugging percentage. Despite those numbers, however, the 2015 MLB Draft ended without a selection of McKay. "I was absolutely devastated McKay didn't get drafted," Coach Ritch Price said in a KU Athletics release. "To put together one of the best seasons offensively in the Big 12 and be honored by the league's coaches as a first-team selection, I was stunned his name didn't get called."

Photo Credit: James Snook/Spokane Indians

Photo Credit: James Snook/Spokane Indians

Twelve days later, however, McKay got a call that gave him a second chance.  The Texas Rangers saw enough promise in McKay to offer a free agent contract and placement with the team’s Class A team, the Spokane Indians. Within a day, McKay made his professional debut with the club and socked seventh inning solo home run and followed it up with an RBI-single in the eight to lead the Indians. McKay went on to play 33 games during the 2015 summer, hitting three home runs and three triples while hitting .222 and slugging .398. Now it’s up to McKay to improve over the offseason to keep his professional hopes alive. McKay had these comments about his experience thus far:

1. My next step is to keep being consistent with my production and making sure that I'm taking advantage of the opportunities that I'm given. I'm looking forward to my first spring training down in Surprise, Arizona.

2. My favorite moment was either my debut where I hit my first professional home run and helped my team get the win or my walk-off double in the middle of the season!

3. We had the most walk-offs during a season I've ever had with the Indians, I think that was unique in itself and I think we developed a mentality when it was late in a game that we were going to win if it was tied.

4. I think the most difficult part of the minors was simply the adjustment to being a professional athlete.  No school, no homework, family and friends are halfway across the United States and your only job is to be a ball player and win.  Setting your own routine every day when previously in college you pretty much had it set for you was a subtle but important change. I needed to learn to use my time effectively every day and prepare for opportunities everyday as well. This was tough to manage when you split one car with four other guys who have different routines.

Fans can see if McKay’s journey will continue at:

  http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=milb&player_id=607210#/career/R/hitting/2015/ALL

 

ONE STEP CLOSER:  Josh Uhen

Milwaukee Brewers / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class A)

Uhen.642159Mequon, WI – Former UW-Milwaukee and Lakeshore Chinook pitcher Josh Uhen is living the dream. The dream started for the Oshkosh native when his home state team, the Milwaukee Brewers, selected him in 2013 (152 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2013 MLB Draft).  Since then, Uhen has made steady progress through the ranks of the minor league system, pitching for the Brewers’ Arizona League rookie team in 2013, the Helena Brewers rookie team in 2014, and pitching this past summer just minutes away from home for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Uhen.IMG_8073Uhen, who overcame a severe elbow injury suffered in 2011 prior to his freshman season with the Panthers, was still recovering from his injury and reshaping his form when he made nine appearances for the inaugural Lakeshore team in 2012.  Despite a 1-5 record in 28.2 innings of work, Uhen steadily improved his strength and steadily developed upon his return to UW-Milwaukee.  After getting the call from the Brewers, Uhen has continued that improvement as he progresses through the Brewers’ system, posting a respectable career ERA of 4.39 in 58 appearances. The first glitch for Uhen, however, occurred in late June when he was hit hard in a home game against Clinton and his arm didn’t feel right. As a result, Uhen sat out much of July, but made his way back to the mound to finish up the summer with nine appearances in the final month. As he prepares for a critical spring training, Uhen commented: 

1.   The next step is just preparing for spring training and getting in the best shape I can for this upcoming season.

2.  My best minor league moment so far was probably playing at Miller Park with the Timber Rattlers this year and getting the opportunity to pitch in front of my friends and family there.

3.  My favorite promotion so far during my career was working with the kids in the Badges Baseball Academy in Neenah.

4.  The most difficult part about the minors is the long season creates a mental and physical grind and you have to learn how to push through that day to day.

Chinook fans can continue to follow the home grown product at:

 http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=milb&player_id=642159#/career/R/pitching/2014/ALL

The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. The 22-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 140 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com.