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Former MLB Player

Ep. 50: From Tennessee to the Big Leagues with Michael McKenry | A Baseball Podcast

Geoff Rottmayer March 16, 2020 2


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From Tennessee to the Big Leagues with Michael McKenry

Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development

Guest Bio:

Michael McKenry, Former MLB Catcher

Summary:

On this episode, Host Geoff Rottmayer sits down with Michael McKenry, a former Big League Catcher and we discuss his youth days and his path to the big leagues.

Show Notes: In this conversation, Michael talks about:

  • His youth day as a baseball player in Tennessee.
  • Coaches and his dad coaching him techniques and what to work on.
  • Being an athlete first then become a baseball player.
  • Was always swinging and throw even during basketball season.
  • Who helped him develop a plan and approach to improve as a player.
  • The information is out there if you want to get better.
  • How he developed the confidence and belief he had.
  • What his college coach was like and how it was different from previous coaches.
  • What it was like getting drafted.
  • Expectations he had going into professional baseball.
  • Coaches who messed with his catching and swing.
  • Getting the call to the big leagues.
  • Who took him under their wing and taught him to be a big leaguer.
  • The transition from being a professional athlete to a retired athlete.
  • and much more.

Website: www.baseballawakening.com

Facebook: Baseball Awakening Podcast

Twitter: Baseball Awakening Podcast

Instagram: The Baseball Awakening Podcast

Email Address: geoff@baseballawakening.com

Geoffrey Rottmayer
On today’s show, we sit down with former big league catcher Michael McHenry. And we talked about his journey from being a youth player and developing into a big leaguer and the many things that he learned along the way.

Intro
Welcome to another episode of the baseball awakening podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered unsexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host, Jeff rottenmeier.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Welcome to the baseball awakening podcast. I’m Jeff Rottmayer. Today we’re sitting down with Michael McHenry, a former big league catcher, and we’re talking about his path to the big league. Michael, how are you sir?

Michael McKenry
I’m doing great. Thank you very much and thanks.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on. You know you spent 12 years in Professional Baseball. And seven of those years you were at the big league level. Something that not a lot of guys have been able to do, but you did and want to talk about your story and understand your path. And what you have learned along the way. But let’s just kind of start with Michael McHenry, the youth player, what was that like?

Michael McKenry
Um, athletic youth, for example. So in love with basketball, baseball, is that pretty much all the way up through high school, very high school, but just find my first log out of high talent. So essentially, tissue baseball, but never really knew anything different industry and the kid had a ball as soon as I could walk out and go on thrown around, breaking windows and shorter honestly, it’s just a A little bit of a wild child to say at least as an adult, she’s always in touch on that a little bit later. Now once I got to high school started out playing on the varsity as a freshman I was fully grown we called the damn child his age. So I hit my peak about about 12 years old outside 900,000 fans and continue to grow and with not so much in height that I went further, never had a home check until I got to college association called a great fall.I’m gonna hit 169 in the spring, I got introduced to 8788 on our sliders and my swing had a little bit of a elevation to it in the sense of my hips are coming out of the ball a little bit and I went off to Sony blow and it changed. A guy really took me under his wing and helped me stay on plane a little bit longer stuff. A little bit longer. You’ve been short stocky, I was always quick to the ball so he just cleaned up my path and I took off from there that’s all clean for my mobile I get mono during the Christmas break was 45 pounds but I got on the field first game two homers. That was one of the men not playing played really well grown with a tough, tough year when it came to a pitching staff with five guys get into the tougher guys that just grind it away as I get my surgery that no one’s gonna get my leg cut off on this about seven to 10 days so I was about five or six games. They said as soon as my wound healed, then the mersa got out of leaked out of my leg. I could play. So the first day my room looked like it was healed I was on the field and had one more nice follow of my junior year because it’s all the literature I took my body probably wasn’t quite ready and I played 76 games that summer. My team here, really bought in China took care my body in a different way, became an all American that played my way through the minor leagues that every single stop which is one of the bottles sold. Hawaii was one development. What’s a rookie development tool boot camp. So there’s a lot that went into it. Probably my favorite part was the grind of it all. I’d love to work on lipstick. So here’s a perfect stranger. Walking through baseball walking through smart chimps and humans. How

Geoffrey Rottmayer
nice yeah, you know you always hear that the guy that play that, you know that the highest level of any sport you know they all love that they all love that grind. They love that process. So So let’s go back to you know when you were youth Did you have a sibling that you played with or tagged along with or were there anyone that you know you grew up around that kind of played Kappa D or anything?

Michael McKenry
I clicked on with anybody ever. My brother’s a lot of eliminators my half brother, my dad had a brother in 2011 that I didn’t know I had my mother slice. sauce. She was forced for adoption because she wasn’t old enough to keep him and stuff and I know brothers and nephews and nieces. So that was pretty cool. But uh, yeah, anybody would play catch with me. was annoying about it I’ll take my dad at their typical and put me in a good take the ball bucket and put it back on. I was a normal all I wanted to do from six years old on was play Major League Baseball I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the kids maybe want to be an astronaut doctor that I just wanted to be a baseball player. I love the game I still love the game. And I think if you really want something in life, you have to believe it first just all the shafts can’t almost burning the ships behind you not having a plan B. You have to be a lot of times you’ll rely on it when you fall back on it.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Nice so when you’re when you’re playing cat with your dad, does he instruct you on your techniques or when they kind of a figure it all on your own type of approach? No. Were you trying to throw the ball as hard as you can or you know what was that like

Michael McKenry
when I first started While I was fixing to have coaches, you know, when I was in youth, I think it was just just getting out and playing. Whether it was going out and playing, you know, backyard football, we used to do it once a week you could have like a huge neighborhood football game, playing basketball, just molding, my body, learning movement patterns and different things. Just being involved constantly constantly, like moving around, I ran track and played soccer. My middles in middle school and also wanted to play goalie, just referring to the bumps, my bodies were doing that so just always been able to adapt to different things no matter what. No, I think you’re kind of asking in a second. I think if you do it the other way around, you can kind of get caught in the lens of too much of distinction safe a baseball style. I think you just have to be an athlete. Let’s kids live and learn from his mistakes was to create a competitive atmosphere. And I feel I got a lot of coaches that did that with a coach that maybe wasn’t like that. People around me in my career to move me forward, like when I was, I believe, just before I turned nine, I ended up skipping league and jumping up. We had a there’s a coach that had a bad rap and one of the guys that I went to school with that knew I was an adequate enough player to be able to handle play with older kids. So he came in he actually pulled me up into the other leagues, and I’ll be forever grateful because coaches can help coaches can really Yeah,

Geoffrey Rottmayer
yeah, you know, I agree. You know, I agree with going out and trying to be an athlete first, you know, you only get a short window at the you to develop certain aspect, you know, such as speed or fee work, or anything like that. And you have To take advantage of that, in that way you have that that athletic ability, and then you can kind of focus on on being the baseball player. So I agree with you there. You know, earlier you said that your nickname, The the manchild. When did that start? And do you think that that helped you?

Michael McKenry
Yeah. When I was in seventh grade, you know, I was a kid that already had one of those artists, shoes. You know, like, you know, that kid that older did that for certificate. And I just developed really quick. You know, I went from being just a normal middle schooler to like I was driving to class in seventh grade. And it definitely gave me a huge advantage and it allowed me to fill out a lot faster. I got a lot quicker than most kids because of that. I think nowadays people since school really tweets so don’t let lasticity you get in there at a young age just want to make sure not to push it too hard for too much pressure and that’s fine but at the end of day I think it does more for the better than for the worse so I’m glad that opportunity created because when I was growing up they wanted to say so the doc said I was closed up and they told me okay the six days before that, I’m still disappointed that was the growth but I think it was an advantage for me especially not being a big kid and again today has completely changed with web analytics and doesn’t either side your build is that you put up the right numbers of what they’re looking for plus won’t say different age, whatever it may be. You can play

Geoffrey Rottmayer
yeah so So Michael, when when Let me ask you so when when when basketball season rolled around. Did you You still pick up the bowling bat? Or did you kind of wait your sleeve and rolled around?

Michael McKenry
No, I never put it down. I always felt like especially when I got to high school but even before then, if they had practice I was there. Even if I had to show up late, I never want to let down my teammates at FOMO kicks them out, okay, kids will not be there. I wanted to work with with with my coaches I wanted to learn now I didn’t get to do a bunch of lessons. I can’t get my shoulder all the time. They did as much as they could. But you know talking was so I had to really soak in any chance I got with a coach or a lesson that I was able to get anything I could do to better myself. I work for three matches stop playing basketballs because my coats on varsity as a sophomore I wanted to focus on basketball guarantees and when I told him I was like I’m gonna go catch bullpens and I’m gonna go no hit with my team if I can’t if I can’t, I’m going to go afterwards to know my my softball teams facility because I knew that was my my my way to go and it’s a new that’s my like growing love and I was going to push away from basketball and I today I think if you want to be good at anything you do it if you want to be a good hitter hit more you want to be a good throw throw more. So that’s the way I went about it. A lot of people more Island stuff.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, you know, I agree. So with that more is more approach. When you went to the cages and worked on stuff, did you always have a plan and an understanding of what you need to do or what they one of the things we just kind of kind of get reps.

Michael McKenry
I was always trying to work on things. Like I said I was a strong kid and that carried up all the way through You know, up to last year even now, anything I do I have a plan. If I’m not seeing improvement, I go back to the drawing board. Okay, what am I doing wrong? How? How can I help this? I wish as a kid, I would have taken a little bit more ownership I used to grab a hold of anything, everything good and try it, learn from it. And know at that age, anything you do, if it’s athletic, really moving, it’s not hindering and it’s not moving the wrong way. Usually can’t help but as you move up, you have to be more precise motor staying up the road. I’m sure you’re in your realm, understanding your approach, what pitches you do and what don’t hit. And nowadays, in my opinion, there’s no excuse. If you want the information. It’s out there. I wish I was a guy that was coming up in a high school or college right now because if you go to a showcase or if you play in summer bowl or if you play in Division One program information It’s out there, you can see how far off you are between your centerfielder. How far are you from Andrew mccutchen, you can actually look at that. And see, okay, his accent below and his consistent barrel rate and his launch angle on a consistent basis is here, here here, his life percentages here his plate percentage, incredible what you can grab ahold of to make yourself better. So obviously if it was now I would run on numbers and always be checking myself. That’s something I always did. But they didn’t have that ability as much in in my time growing up as a baseball player.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, I’m right there with you, man. I tell kids all the time that the information is there. And if you really want to get better, there really isn’t an excuse not to get better. So when you said that you always had a plan. Where did that come from? Did Did you? Did you know what you wanted to work on this summer. sit down with you and tell you what you need to focus on. Where does that come from?

Michael McKenry
Oh, I’m going a bit of both. I made I made think mine. I didn’t know I was doing that. Yeah. But as I grew up, I found things I like some of it was Courtney, some of it was not so quirky, but I knew what I needed to do to a certain extent, and then when I got some affirmation from people that are way smarter than me understand a lot more to me. It made me do it more. And I think that’s the biggest thing is I was always trying to find out why I would do that. I want to know the why before I’d ever do the how, but I wouldn’t wait to find out the why I’d start doing it and find out the why I’m doing it. And then how it affects me. I’ll know pretty quick. If you wait to find out the why you may get past notes. I was always afraid. know someone who was working harder than me. something better than me. So like, I just didn’t want to wait.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, and the kids that really want to get better want to understand the why. And then they’re the kids that go through the motion with no interest in understanding why. But normally they don’t you know, really love the game to a point where this is their only option and that’s okay. So let me let me ask this. So, one thing about guys that make it to the highest level of, of anything. They have this level of belief and confidence that different than everybody else. How did that go for you know, did you develop this or Was this something that you always had?

Michael McKenry
I think confidence can result. You know, I think the people you surround yourself with the belief first mentality affirmations, it’s so bad to work on. I mean, anxiety heavily in my family. I didn’t see confident people going up. But I think believing it, having faith in something way bigger and results and work know it. If you’re, I think the best thing I ever was told growing up was done prepared or always panicked. So, if I could stay prepared for just about anything, I felt like, I’d be okay. Even if I might get up or even if I took a ball to the shoulder, I could adapt some way and compete. If nothing else, I don’t have my a swing or my D swing. Let me just fall back and just compete, maybe fell off 10 pitches I strike out, but my guy behind me it’s a double in the gap. We wouldn’t have a full game. Maybe I’m not even going to hit that day. I get a walk or hit by pitch, or I just call a great game, keep everything in front of me as it is, you can find the positive and the negative. And that’s how I want to learn further. Because I’d get discouraged, you know, coming up through the minors. I would do everything right, but I wouldn’t get a promotion or I would think I did everything right. And I didn’t have promotion. You know, you have people telling you all Why aren’t you up there? You’re, you start feeding into that, like, No, no, no, the only person any better than as the guy was yesterday, when I got that focus, that’s really really nice. I tell

Geoffrey Rottmayer
kids that all the time as well, you know, I, I have them write down 15 things that they do well for the day. And to be honest, it’s really a challenge to find 15 things that went well when things didn’t go well that day. But it does change their outlook on things. So for you know, how, when did you develop this was it in high school, college pro ball You know the right now you know that the comparing thing is a huge problem and you in with you prior then it always has been. So how did you get past that

Michael McKenry
book? I think that one was the girl I was dating my wife, Jacqueline, she helped me understand that to stay in the present, she always reminded me of that in the minor leagues, and, you know, you hear it 1000 times over control the controllables. But at the end of the day, like I would, I would just try to support everybody. And when I took a servant approach to leadership, that’s when I understood and it hurt me at times, I’m not gonna lie like, but as a man, I can walk away and say I did the right thing. It may not have always helped me get to the big leagues are always helped me perform on the field, but helping a guy that I’m competing with He gets better. I can walk away and say I did the right thing, instead of sitting back, not saying anything, watching him struggle or fail in our team struggle, I guess. I don’t know, I think maybe probably more my space than anything knowing that there was something bigger than the game. And my wife, God put her in my life to really help me get over a lot of the insecurities I had with communication, but she’s never believed in all these other things that I didn’t talk in front of people. I was an outspoken leader. She helped me get past a lot of those things just by who she was. Just as example. She cheated. She’s not to talk about all the time. She’s just about it. And, you know, then then just growing in my faith, I think those are the two things that really rocked the boat to me and pushed me forward.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Awesome, and that’s amazing. It’s amazing when you find someone who believes the new and what, what it can do for you. So let’s jump Middle Tennessee State. What was that transition like for you after a pretty successful high school career? You know, what was the coaching like compared to the coaching that you had up to that point? mode that transition like

Michael McKenry
so. High School, like I said, You know, I always had somebody saying I couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that. I had I wanted to go to the gym and play for Coach Corbin and Leggett got like, it actually called me and asked me what position I played. And then I realized, oh, man, like I have played everywhere. I haven’t really caught and I was like, is this gonna hurt me and it I think it really did in the long run of, you know, people saw me as a third baseman and as an outsider, I was really athletic in high school and I didn’t catch all the time so people didn’t know what to do with me and even a little bit of code. After you know, hindsight, I found out He wasn’t recruiting. I wasn’t his first clue. And I actually reached out to Middle Tennessee. The school in my top three, I wanted to go to. It wasn’t a giant division one, but that was my mentality. clemson I just fell in love with and it goes over that he went to Vanderbilt, so I couldn’t get integratable I didn’t have a high enough test score. I had great grades, but my test score wasn’t high enough. And he wasn’t there long enough to give me all the aid that they can do nowadays, but coach Pete, the head coach there after they lost the recruit. The assistant coach was adamant about coming to see me. He offered me a scholarship to put the papers in front of me and said, I want to grab them and he pulled him back and said do you want to catch on? I said, Yes, sir. I only want to catch you because as soon as I don’t think you want to catch the scholarships gone. He’s a few said I don’t know where maybe I was leaving. I was like, Oh, wow. And I’m literally like, I love this guy. All right, let’s go. Let’s go like, I’m ready. And he was hard nosed, he was very, very hard on me. And the funny thing is I played more outfield my freshman year than I did catch. So I think today is one of those moments. And then in summer ball, I played third base my freshman year, that didn’t catch it all. But also our team has a basement and he called me like, what are you doing? And I was like, that’s all that matters. There’s a guy that can catch you can’t play anywhere else. We got a third baseman. I’m playing third and I’ll do the same thing next year for me that so you know that that’s what ultimately made you get to Middle Tennessee and I’ll forever be grateful how hard he was on me. It’s probably not good for everybody. But for me, he wouldn’t. He would allow a lower standard for me he didn’t want a ball to get by me to fastball at 95 was very he wanted me to block it. It fell apart. It got hit I got in trouble. If the pitcher didn’t get over. On the left, he hit the ball, the second base or first days. I ran a mile He was very tough, but at the same time, I think that’s what made me gritty. And I’ll forever be grateful for him. And I’ll forever be happy. I proved him awesome.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
And yeah, you’re right man, then there’s some guy that like that, in need that. And there’s some guys that don’t. And personally, I responded well to code you’d like that. So this sounded like my kind of a guy. So at the time, did you understand what he would do? And you know what he would do in or did you think he would kind of pick it out? Do you know at the time?

Michael McKenry
No, I think what he’s doing here, he went, he wears his emotions on his sleeve. He’s not gonna take on you to pick on you. If you can read through that old school gritty mentality. Yeah, you knew it was. It was just last week. Some guys couldn’t read through it, but every guy that’s ever played for him and back in the day That these guys really did care. And I’ve talked to them ever since I actually live in Middle Tennessee. And I moved here to help that program with Jim McGuire and coach Pete A while back.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, you know, it’s always interesting how different people take in a message and respond to certain coaching styles.

Michael McKenry
Yeah, no question. I think every individual God, that wired is different. I mean, he made it sound a third and there’s a lot of grains and sand and everything else dirt. So we’re completely different when it comes down down to the wires of your being. And I think you’ve got to find what makes a kid tick. Some some kids need praise, they need love. They need a hug a pat on the back. Some kids know that some kids don’t need anything, just leave them alone and allow them to do what they need to do. But I think that’s the art of coaching is is empathy is understanding an individual and same thing. I think if you don’t have empathy, if you don’t want to know, your guys, in and out, I don’t think you’re getting the most out of yourself or the team or your pitching staff.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
So so when you got to Middle Tennessee State, if I heard you correctly, you said you had a whole new swing. Did they? Did they? Did they tell you look, this isn’t gonna work here? Or did they kind of just let you play it out in the fall and then, you know, just kind of figure it out. I’m

Michael McKenry
grateful. I think I had a really good news. I think I put too much pressure on myself. It was the first time I I wasn’t playing every day. It was the first time where I had a guy that was in front of me, essentially, that was a lot better than me, especially catching. So it was it was one of the things that I put out and Just enjoy the game enjoy the process. I learned invaluable lessons from it I overworked. I would hit after games before games. At six in the morning before class, I was trying to figure it out instead of slowing down, remembering who I am, and I just came the game. No, I was, I was outside myself all season. And then when I would do really well, I wanted to do better. So if you just read that back a little bit, no, just riding the wave a little bit.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Nice. And I think a lot of guys fall into the boat of trying to do too much. So I’d be interested to hear because earlier you said that you were a guy that is more of a more more of a mindset versus less is more. You know, in this situation, most people would probably think During this time, less is more.

Michael McKenry
I mean, not to say more is more. why I say that is what I learned was just gonna hit. Like, I don’t have to be doing that exact task to get better at it. But I understand why sometimes it’s just a conversation for somebody would listen to me, so I could talk it out through my head. Sometimes it was reading a book that has to do with baseball. As I grew up in my career, it really was my mobility and my movement. How am I moving? Is my spine compared and the heck am I am I getting my chance space tight again. I realized that that was good. I was swinging back there and I was thrown at it. That wasn’t good. I was off. I was missing just up the line when I was doing on the second. We understand that you don’t always have to be doing that task at hand. One thing that helped me along the way is sometimes I just go in and hit left handed. Sometimes I go in and, and then do my routine, I would just assume the ball well, I just stand in the bullpen and just track balls that often have a half after that, and I would swing. So I’d be on time, I would feel excellent about the ball every time or I’d be off a little bit, but I’ve seen if I was on time, you know, I would always think of something different. As I move forward. I didn’t really cut it that at the end of my career, I was sort of done a lot more at the beginning of my career, but I would do things I realized, if my shoulder was clear. To me, I would go in the room and I would, I would do a snatch pick list, because it pulled me backwards on such a showing that my shoulders always wanted to pull full load or plate my loss or not my last year but three or four years of torn labor and never said anything. And I had to snatch on own. Sometimes it was just going to the local gym and getting it done. didn’t want me to do it for the guys, but I was trying to find something that could possibly help.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Interesting. You know, I like that thought process so it’s kind of more of finding other things to assist you rather than repeating the same thing over and over and over. So that’s interesting and brilliant. I’m actually now that Lincoln about it. So let’s, let’s jump over to 2006 you get drafted by the Rockies in the seventh round. What was that like for you? What was the motion? I will

Michael McKenry
be honest with you. I was an all American. I went from an all conference my sophomore year all conference all region to all regions. American in every book, removal all of them and I was I had to be the last guy taken out of that list. Guys catches in my conference. We’re getting taken before me, guys post numbers. I didn’t understand it. I know at all you’re going to go, we’re going to be in the third round. We’re going to be hearing everything I was telling you the opposite. At first case during a Pro Bowl, it was my first case of, you know, like, man, like, I can’t worry about what anybody else says. I can’t think about, like I always saw the best in people. That was a lot of times they don’t know, at all what they’re talking about, and they don’t, they’re making promises. They can’t just do it, you can see what happens and then play it out. But you know, what we know that I probably needed. And you know, it was 198 pick, I was outside playing basketball because I was I was getting upset that my my girlfriend set up a little like, get together and everything and, you know, a couple hours go by and I’m still not drafted. phone’s not even ringing. I’m just like, man like it told me. No way. get tossed around. And then I did. I went outside, so she lost my mind. And then I got called to the Rockies. And lo and behold, that’s all.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so now you sign in you go and report for the first time. What was that? Like? I mean, did you have an expectation of the way things were gonna be and the way things were gonna be like?

Michael McKenry
No, I did not. I didn’t have any expectation. Say No, like, the new thing was when I showed up, I had an agent and Oscar assigned me immediately. I thought about lone bats because I didn’t know that they supply bats, that they’re terrible. So not your craft. You want to make sure you have the right tools versus not not catching gear at all. Is my agent and I’ve never had that before no like, usually I work catches weird so I don’t hold like law abiding gloves were taped together so like, for me I was like wow this is like a baseball heaven right now and then no being in the culture of the Latin community and getting to know those guys and where they came from and the hardships they went through to get to where they are and the appreciate appreciation they had to the game. It just opened up your eyes getting a new perspective and what those tools are. It’s caught every game but one that I played right field in my junior year, and then no I was a second pick. So they call it top 10 on patients and priorities about catching just about every day. And tri cities. Know in Washington State never been that far away from home is different yet you have a adaption area right there. And the learning of hitting the wind back at a ginormous field, one of the worst hitter friendly arts I’d ever played out through my whole career. It was different you know, it was hauled out to the auto myself but I had some really really good coaches that you know, said don’t worry about the results the results not what it is continue at the ball heart, they let me know like, I’m a quality that it takes us from

Geoffrey Rottmayer
nice man it’s it’s gotta be nice to have that approach and support from them getting you to kind of focus on your on your own process. But you know, when I when I sit here and I look at your numbers in the minor league, you did pretty good. So did anyone you know at any point tried to mess with your swing or with your catching style, or do they just keep I’m gonna leave you alone. Ah, yes.

Michael McKenry
Definitely put it in I think, you know, throughout 40 something percent my first try cities are really caught pretty well. But I had like a little, maybe a hitch to it, say, an advocate some coordinator who actually told me something that I’ll forever be grateful for and he told me, Hey man, get rid of that. And I got rid of it within a year and I became elite thrower throughout the minor leagues and so I hurt my shoulder. That’s a long story about getting through it. So that was the good side. And then I also in low a year and I had to add a cache man like my coach in Houston, our hitting coach. He’s a legend in Mexico and he, they both sat me down and said, hey, go out there. Enjoy this because I was thought of myself often. They were like just slaving away. I just started raking I mean I ended up with remember maybe 20 some homers that year and then I went to Hawaii and have a big time down there I ended up with 27 homers on the year the depict Jackson had some art within that 2018. But between oh seven and always I got over coached, someone tried to in good in good heart and in kindness they are going to help me better but it actually it put me in a position hitting wise that I didn’t need to be in. It wasn’t a tool. And either fighting play out if you look at my 2008 numbers, I started out the season really, really bad. And then I climb my way out of it. And it took some time and then you know just throughout the year here a couple things here and there and whatnot. I think if I would have just trusted my ability and not been over coachable from oh seven on, I would have been better off. I really took ownership back in 2012 when I was struggling and I just said, Man, I’m just going to figure this out on my own. Like, why am I constantly a grown man, I should be my best coach. I can take their advice I can learn from them. But I got it over there. And I did. I had a good year as a backup 12 and 13 started out good, got hurt, was climbing my way around I need to do is really learning how to adapt, not playing that much in turn it the year before and then a 14 at my best year. Hit low on the road hit well at home in Colorado. But I changed some things on my phone that often come by just taking ownership and it’s something I wish I would have done earlier on in my career. I didn’t, and I was just a little too nice, a little too comfortable at times.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, you know, I talked to a lot of guys that played, you know, at the level that you did and they all say the same thing. So very interesting. So, at what point did you figure out who you were, as a hitter?

Michael McKenry
I think it constantly changed for me. I got Gordon, as I grew up into it all. It all depends on the role you’re playing. You know, I’m a different hitters I play every day. I’m a guy that is going to have an 800 OBS. I think there’s every single myrlie here I played, except maybe last year, as an 800 FPS. I had above average FPS. It was something I paid attention to. Constantly, like, I didn’t care as much about my house I wanted on production. Now that’s the big thing. But something we focused on in college. And at the same time, there was times where as a benched for air. I hate to say, it all depends on how that you’re going how my body felt I played through some injuries in 2015. I had a torn meniscus in April and played all the way to July. So I couldn’t hit the same way I couldn’t 14 I had to figure out a different way. And by the time I even got close, I could barely squat down and finish the game anymore. So you could put that I mean, I use it as an example of buddies that are service members and buddies that have served over. And one thing I’ve learned from that, especially like as a police officer in town, is that to the situation which are prepared for anything, it’s not ready. before it happens, you die in those situations, and I really took that to heart. The last couple years of my career and what was known what not, I just found something I could do that day to help my team win. I think a lot of Chicago said it the best he said, and I play once every five days, right? My job is to win. Sometimes it’s going to be me hitting sometimes coming in catching, sometimes it’s throwing blocking the ball, whatever it is. But ultimately, I just want to find a win. And I can say that throughout my career, I’ve won more games than a loss. And I know it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t me that was doing that with the guys that I was around. But hopefully I made those guys better and help them and it ended up helping me.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Nice. So what about your routine? When did you figure that out?

Michael McKenry
Um, the consistency of my routine was working from the ground up. I always thought like, Hey, man, I can’t feel any drill and find my swing if I can adapt to whatever I’m doing. So if someone could help I don’t have to always fall into this line of how to do this. I can’t succeed no adapt. Like if I cannot get out. If I can’t hit BP before I hit off the tee, what are you going to do in a pinch hit situation? You can you can you know, I didn’t learn that until I became a bass player. You’re not gonna adapt. You can also go to his shop. They’re not going to say okay, well make sure like he did some toss and in some bad like, though when I played it literally there is no case like you figure it out. And if you fail, it’s on anybody else. It’s on you. So it changed but I always started work from the ground up sometimes. You know, the focus was on the field I was looking for later on in my career. So if I felt like my my hands weren’t getting into slot on time, I’ve really focused on getting on slot time I take my my legs out of it. I thought my legs weren’t firing. I was tired. overemphasize some things there’s times where I would put a doughnut on my head with a little bat. I take what the longer that whatever I could to create that field because I didn’t have time. didn’t have it that’s not average about 200 that are under 50. That from 11. Ongoing, so I retired. So I didn’t have time to to make adjustments. I think it’s definitely now known and then when you pinch it, you know, you get 20 punches a year, and you only have 150 is that if you don’t do okay, the hair, You crushed that was making you good, trying to adapt and figure out what I need for that day. Folks, you give any advice to up and coming kid. Make yourself vulnerable, put yourself in really tough situations like this hit one day it was out that he was no time car, it was someone else’s back. do different things adapt, make your body adapt what you’re doing. If you have someone that’s a bad BP throw or hit off on them every now and then, because if you can adapt to that, you’re just it’s another chance to compete. Oh, you’re only kidding off the machine was like a gap to get out like, you think if you’re in another job, you say, Oh, I don’t like doing my interview report. They’re gonna say don’t do it. No, you have to do it. Like sometimes you need to do some people like to succeed. Some some advice I’d give kids nowadays.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Very nice. I love it. So So Michael, what was the call like when they said you were going to the big leagues.

Michael McKenry
And it was a small year in 2010. The customer that was the two guys that were out the one guy was a prospect and as Chris hi Mehta, and then the gold people and The girl ended up having a clearer and more playing time. I noticed life was pregnant and I was always on my toes because I was on the roster so it was one of those years where like Hey Max you’re not playing today. I netta doesn’t feel good and you feel like oh yeah, I mean to go eat I know that hurt your credit for him but and I’d love to have this opportunity. Maybe you’ll get and then that happened a couple two or three times you’re sitting next to you but you’re like man, what’s going on the shop speculate in just try not to listen to the the chief. Just focus on what you need to do. And then when that call action on it was like, really going up. I got caught up a little bit earlier. Because one of the guy that then got it was cool because I’ll be a stranger at home. So I literally got to wake up the next day after my wife today before was jumping on my back live stuco was telling me I got called up I got to ride up there with with my wife is an hour and a half trip and I got there really early a florist and my lockers right next to Todd Helton, a guy I looked up to from school and I’m from Knoxville and he always picked on me and boot camps a neat, neat experience for me to to share that with a guy and you know walk through the organization to the top you see more divisions you have to and so really cool experience.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Nice and so when you first got to the big leagues you know when you first got there who were the people that kind of took you under their wings, you know Who taught you how to be a big leaguer and what did you learn from them?

Michael McKenry
You know, I was just always watching nobody really like just grabbed a hold of me. In my organization, I would say a guy, Brett Carroll. You know, my junior in college he just got drafted out of college from Knoxville play for the Marlins and brewers and some other teams in the major leagues. He let me join him. Season to hit and we grinded together for years. And I would say if anybody took me under his wing, but I tried to grab nugget everywhere. I’ve learned that if you wait two minutes, or if you wait to get someone, you’re gonna be disappointed. So I would get on YouTube. I would read books, I would listen to motivational speakers, guys I just looked up to and live a good life even if it’s outside of baseball. I just watch what they’re doing and try to learn from how they carry themselves. What are they doing before the game? What are they doing after the game? How are they recovering? You start picking things you like, because you’re asking questions and you’re learning But at the same time, I wasn’t always asking for something or I wasn’t trying to, like be a NAT Nat to the guys, we want to swap me away. I just sat there and listened. And I suppose the best approach we’ve got gave us, you know, two or three years, two eyes, one mouth for a reason. And I want to do those four things with my mouth. And I feel like it really helped me especially now in my career. I got to know so many coaches, and I would say more coaches had an impact on me as a person and a player than any player did. Because I was always sitting at the front of the dugout, next to the manager, the pitching coach today’s I didn’t play even when I was playing. That’s where I’d roll in the throw my catchers gear right next to the lineup car and but I always wanted to be next to those guys because they knew way more than I did. They have more wisdom. They’ve been around the game longer. I just wanted to see their opinion if I wasn’t in line. With the pitching coach, I wanted to talk to him about it. Why am I not in line with you? I don’t like what you’re seeing. And then sometimes you do sometimes you wouldn’t if you talk together instead of, you know, not right or wrong and you just go off and do something different. Like we would banter back and forth about that thing. And those relationships, I still have a guy today. I was actually just talking to a pitching coach this weekend at pitch Palooza that I just love to death, and it’s like three or four of them. And we still talk. I mean, they’re on the phone. And it’s just neat to keep those relationships and keep growing together.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Awesome. So, so cool. Now you’re retired. What’s the transition like? being an athlete, that love the grind, love the process? And now you wake up in and it’s not there. So I know a lot of guys struggle with that.

Michael McKenry
Well, before I get to the struggle, I did it because I knew I was ready. I couldn’t make a decision. But I always wanted to walk away from home terms, obviously one of the huge bank accounts, which we do anyways, but at the end of the day, I got to walk away. I want an apple championship in triple A 2017 I don’t regret anything. The only thing I could say I did that was stupid was I played hurt too much. It always hurt me never helped me. But sort of like those years. I mean, I think it made me who I am and what I was reading. I didn’t. I didn’t know how to explain it to anybody. My wife kept asking me She. She was asking me so much it almost made me pull my hair out. But it’s just she loves me. But I was looking. See like, okay, man, somebody like helped me understand this cause teams, and they were near the great authors especially have to talk to you that trip. But they saw a value different than they ever had heard of, because the analytics and I’m like, do I play like, these analysts are helping me big time, like, people are seeing a different value and different asset. And then I call the guy named Jerry wants to. He’s a mentor of mine, a guy. I’m doing catching call next week with on stage and said, Jerry, here’s my situation. Here’s a baseball guru. We call him the Godfather. He’s been around the game. I don’t know if you ages he’s probably 187. But he’s been around forever. This is Jerry new question. I thought he would talk me into it. And because I want to ask you one question. That’s it. You’re analyzing it. Guys this summer and you’re better than them, but you’re going to be mad. I said, No. He said take the job. And said you’re never going to regret the involved with 30 plus Major League managers and fun officers and being able to see things that are invaluable. You’re going to be able to be a coach for every team are going to be able to see your value like never before. You’re going to get more out of this than you could ever get coaching in the minor leagues or coaching in the big leagues, or going back and playing. And you know, getting back to this, this is more value than you’ll ever get doing anything else and I really believe he was right. I started my heart but I felt like I need 10 reasons why and that was the last one I needed and also Jon Gruden in get the job with the Raiders. The same thing with Jerry so it was a I had an opportunity to learn from everybody opportunity to grow in the game I could never had I get to go places I would have never been able to go. He’s like, yeah, I’ve been out of the game for a long time. I met you a little Because I haven’t been on the sidelines, but I’ve been able to learn, I just have to put it all together for me. I was like, wow, that’s it. I think that’s awesome. And literally after that speech, I, I called my producer at at&t and took the job. But the transition to answer your question, though, it’s hard. And I don’t think it’s talked about enough. I think there should be someone out there that you can talk to the center and if any, anybody that’s listening to this, yeah, man contact, if you’re retiring, whether you’re you’re out 10 years out, whatever, man like, it’s hard and people don’t get it. Like you go from being a major league baseball player. And like, people just don’t treat you the same. They don’t talk to you the same. They think that Like, we’ve made a bunch of money, and he told me because he’s fine. Like they have a great marriage. They don’t know anything that’s going on. It’s like because most people don’t ask, how are you doing? How was the transition? What’s going on? Like, are you really enjoying this? I just, I pray as a prayer that I constantly pray. I pray that people humanize Athens more. And I, I was really fortunate to have a wife, bear with me. I know, through some grieving, we took in our gun all at one expose. So I knew it was my decision. Still not easy. We’re talking about almost 30 years, the same thing. Day in, day out, day in day out. Like, literally I wake up, just like I can I go, I want to go work out and go ahead and go throw like And then that’s never going to go away from me. So people don’t get that. And I wish that they would have a little more grief. It’s not about money. It’s about it’s the love you add your kids out the game. And for me, it’s the love of the love of the grind for me. I’m just the grind, man, I miss going to the drawing board and working it out like it’s my favorite kid comes to me and I want to grind. Let’s go. I love what Kobe Bryant right now just opened up a facility in LA to get back to the game. Yeah, you can make money you should incredible. But at the same time, it’s because he knows. He can make people better by just playing with them by just showing them the way because it’s not just a player it was it’s how we work. And like I think it’s not done enough. I really pray that people do a better job of helping all guys transition not just major players like I’m talking to Not everybody. Does anybody have to walk away from the game?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
I agree and most most people don’t get to walk away from the game on their own. No the game told me we’re done with me before I was ready. But I’m there with you man the conversation that I’ve had with some of the other guys that played at the same level that you did it conversation goes a long way because we we you can kind of tend to make this your identity

Michael McKenry
Yeah, no question. You know, it’s funny you say about the identity. That’s why you have to have a vision Why? I wasn’t hurt guys. Like, you know, for me, it’s safe. I don’t think there’s anything else to look for it will find a bigger lie knows like, why I said something in a meeting one time and said as safe is what drives and it’s my identity. It’s what I want to play with. Damn, it’s why I cooked this game. I love this game. God gave me a gift to do this. But at the end of the day, find your life. And for some of you it’s money. That could be money for some of you. It’s It’s It’s a celebrity finding a platform, find your why. So you’re not identified constantly. But if you can go to money to learn celebrity platforms, all that will disappear. That’s a solid belief. And your Lord and Savior is something that doesn’t go well. And you don’t have to do anything for it. He did everything. So it changes the perspective. But still being able to, I still have a hard time, because you’re right, like, it is such a big part of you. And it’s hard. You’re human.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Well, Michael, sir, I appreciate your time. And thank you for sharing all that you did with us.

Michael McKenry
Hey, man, no problem. Thanks for having me on. Thanks for reaching out. Maybe we can do it again. Sometime. I can shop. Obviously it’s what I do for a living now. But yeah, man just anytime you need to talk a little baseball Just give me all

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Download now: Ep. 50: From Tennessee to the Big Leagues with Michael McKenry | A Baseball Podcast

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Geoff Rottmayer

Geoff Rottmayer is the owner of Athletic Mission Baseball Academy, a training facility in Tulsa Oklahoma. Geoff also host The Baseball Awakening Podcast, which was developed to provide content to the baseball community straight from the source. In addition that that, Geoff, is helping coaches and professional start their own podcast and find their own voice.

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