AAAAce Interview; Billy McKinney


Briefly: AAAAce (Four A + Ace) = prospect with big league aspirations and projections that I interview)

When I was younger my best sport was probably baseball. I say that because each school week I didn’t wait until Friday’s bell but Saturday’s alarm clock, indicating it was time to hop into dad’s car and head out to field #8 — early. I needed time to run through a warm-up routine that I saw ballplayers do from row 4 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington growing up. I patterned my regimen after my favorite player, Frank Catalanotto, but I had to leave time to be social and accept popsicles for good plays, because I was still just 9 years old and had to attend to being a kid.

But my focus was on representing the “Cat Man,” sporting number 27, answering questions about what I was doing before games, and also answering questions from my teammates/friends (sans Pierce and Jackson) about who the heck this Frank Catalanotto was and why anyone would ever use such a batting stance.

Down to the batting gloves, I had it down. I thought my future resided in the gentle, smooth sand to one side of second base.

It wasn’t until years later that my dad dropped the hammer of logic on me, and it’s probably because middle school is too old to be attending  ballgames in a full uniform, cleats to batting gloves to the tilt of the bill on my Rangers cap.

Professional baseball was unfortunately not in young me’s future, but I had a friend who never had to be told such words because his future could, would and after time did realize the childhood dream we both had.

Billy McKinney and I had always been good friends, him a year younger playing two years ahead of his age level, me just one year advanced. Unfortunately for me, we attended different elementary schools, which pretty much decided what club team you would end up on.

Surely enough he was on the rival squad, comfortably fitting in with kids as many as four years his senior.

Some more boring self-retrospect later, Billy McKinney is one of the elite high school baseball players in the nation, playing for Plano West. His senior year he hit .372 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI, climbing the ranks as one of the premiere high school prospects going into the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft.

At pick 24, the Oakland Athletics (fan in me: crap, friend in me: wow!) selected Billy McKinney, and so let’s get to know Keith Law’s number two rated prospect for the A’s, in fact let’s begin there.

What are your thoughts on ESPN prospect Insider ranking you second to just Addison Russell (3rd overall) in his 2014 rankings?

"I am honored to be considered so high, yet also realize it all depends on how I play and I must get better everyday."

When did you realize, dang, I could play pro baseball?

"There are many steps left to make it to the Major Leagues. If you mean getting drafted, not sure there was a realization as much as it was a goal I set for myself during high school. After seeing some of my friends get drafted in 2012, I decided I would give it my best and see what happened. It has been a lifetime dream to play at the highest level although I still have many levels I need to accomplish to get there."

In our earlier years I remember you played a lot of 1B and OF, at what point did OF become your primary position?

"Being left handed restricts you playing many positions (like) 3rd, short, 2nd and catcher. Thus I became an outfielder and 1st baseman. I chose outfield as I love roaming the field and playing with so much space."

How did you spend draft day? 

"I spent draft day with nine other potential draftees in New York sightseeing and visiting with each of them. It was a very enjoyable day riding on the top of a double decker bus seeing things like Twin Towers Memorial, Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden."

Coolest draft day interview? 

"The conference call I made with a bunch of the reporters from Oakland such as Susan Slusser."

How did you react when it was Oakland who selected you?

"At first I was completely stunned as I had no idea they were interested in me. As I thought more about it I became more and more excited as I had always respected how they approached the game of baseball and knew they were considered a great team."

Of all the interactions (Billy Beane, Bob Melvin, Yoenis Cespedes, Nate Freiman, Adam Rosales, broadcasters,…) which was the coolest?

"Everyone of the names mentioned were great people, although Billy Beane stood out as he was very intelligent and just a great person. When he walked in the room you could feel his presence. I had lunch with Billy and his staff  the day I signed the contract which was very enjoyable."

Finally, which of our youth baseball teams is your favorite: Wolves, Renegades or Cannons?

"Plano West Wolves. (his high school team…can’t win ’em all)"