March 29, 2006

Baseball Team Benefits From McKown's Hitting Prowess

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There was no adjustment period for freshman Brant McKown. It is rare that a rookie player has as much success as the 5-10 Florida native has had this early in the baseball season.

The scary thing is that McKown never really even had time to get into the routine of things, as he literally left the football field to pick up his baseball mitt.

McKown, a two-sport athlete, was named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week over Spring Break, as he led the Red offense in his home state by batting .615 in the team’s first three games of the team’s road trip in Bradenton, Fla. He ended the trip with a triple and his first-ever Cornell home run against Ohio State at the end of the annual pilgrimage to baseball’s spring holy land.

In starting the season by hitting like a possessed man, McKown has surprised almost everybody.

Everyone, that is, except for his teammates and coaches.

“When we saw Brant play in high school we had an idea that he was going to be a pretty good hitter,” said head coach Tom Ford. “I don’t know if it is much of a surprise only because we kind of expect him to swing the bat well. Obviously you don’t always plan on a kid coming in immediately and just going right to work, but he’s a talented hitter and he’s proved himself early on by going up there and swinging away.”

What Ford and his recruiting staff saw of McKown in high school was something special. At Tampa Jesuit High, McKown set numerous school records and was named the Hillsborough Country Coaches’ Association’s 3A Player of the Year last year, his senior season. He was also voted to the All-Florida State Team twice.

While it is obvious that McKown’s efforts early in the season have had an impact on the field, what is scary is that there seems to be an even greater upside for McKown, since he hasn’t even acclimated himself to the full baseball swing of things.

“We didn’t get to see much of him in the fall because he was playing football,” Ford said. “You always wonder if he was going to have enough time to come in and regain everything with the time off, but he certainly has.”

While most of the baseball team spent the first semester of school working out and mastering mechanics inside of Bartels, McKown was committed to football where he is a safety for Jim Knowles’ ’87 squad. The premonition is that McKown could even become better once he becomes more accustomed to college pitching.

Regardless of what kind of pitching he is seeing, he’s definitely seeing the ball well. McKown currently sits in eighth place in Ivy League with a team-leading .354 batting average. He has recorded 17 hits so far on the season, with four of them translating into extra bases.

“We talk about swinging the bat well with everybody in terms of forgetting the mechanics in a game situation and seeing the ball well,” Ford said. “Besides doing that, he’s just a calm guy who seems to be fairly poised. He doesn’t seem to let a lot bother him. As is true with all good hitters, he has a short memory about his at-bats.”

Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Assistant Sports Editor