There is something to be said for the comfort level like the one Quaid McKinnon is feeling.
After transferring from Paradise Valley Community College after two seasons, the left-handed first baseman is making an impact in his first year at Angelo State University.
“I’m just really grateful that I’m at a place where I can do this stuff and be successful,” McKinnon said. “I’ve really enjoyed where I’m at and the team. When you win games, it definitely makes things a lot easier because you don’t really have any pressure.”
Being named the Lone Star Conference Hitter of the Week twice has a way of helping as well.
McKinnon’s most recent Hitter of the Week recognition came two weeks ago when the Ahwatukee Foothills resident hit .667 in 12 at-bats during Angelo State’s series against Incarnate Wood.
While Angelo State, a Division II school, boasts a 23-10 record through Tuesday, the team’s 7-5 conference record seeds them at third in the standings behind Texas A&M-Kingsville and West Texas A&M.
Having started all 33 games this season, McKinnon leads the Rams with a .348 batting average and 31 runs scored. His 40 hits, 23 RBIs and .453 on-base percentage are among the team leaders.
“Being a part of this team has been amazing, (and) being able to do whatever they need me to do to help us win,” McKinnon said. “This group of guys is just so close. Everybody’s willing to sacrifice something for us to win so being a part of that has made me feel good.”
Angelo State coach Kevin Brooks figured McKinnon was in line to be successful from the get go.
“Quaid worked hard in the weight room and is looking great,” Brooks said before the season. “The great thing I see with him is that along with his added strength, he also really improved his swing. With his height, it’s going to be tough for our guys to throw it over his head over there at first base.”
The 6-foot-5 McKinnon, who was home-schooled and played for Arcadia High, has found the transition from PVCC a lot easier than he was expecting.
“The game of baseball doesn’t really change for me,” McKinnon said. “The philosophies are a little different. Angelo State is a bigger school (so) a bigger crowd comes to the game.”
After using a wood bat for the past two seasons in Arizona, McKinnon is getting used to adjusting to the way the ball comes off a metal bat differently, but admits it’s not much of a difference.
The only real aspect of his game that has changed drastically is his conversion from a catcher at Paradise Valley to a full-time first baseman at Angelo State. Getting better defensively is his biggest goal and he has taken the time and effort it takes to accomplish that.
“What wins the games is pitching and defense,” McKinnon said, “and if you can’t play defense, you shouldn’t be out there.”
With his comfort level higher than it’s ever been while playing baseball, McKinnon gives a lot of the credit to the coaching staff and the teammates they’ve surrounded him with.
“They’re just players’ coaches,” McKinnon said. “They take care of the players (and) they’re thinking about what the players want and not what the coaches want. This is probably the funniest year of baseball I’ve ever had. A big part of it is the coaching.”
While he may not see himself as a vocal leader, McKinnon’s repeated commitment to his team speaks volumes. His dad taught him to approach the game as a leader by showing up early and staying late, which is something McKinnon prides himself on.
As for the rest of the season, he recognizes the Rams need to finish strong to have a shot at the conference tournament and beyond. As for his contributions, McKinnon aims to keep doing whatever is needed of him.
“For me to be successful, you have to give yourself up to be fully committed to the team and that’s what I want to do,” McKinnon said.
• Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.