In all sports, at every level, even the greatest players go through slumps. As any athlete will tell you, the frustration of having trouble with a skill that has come to be second nature is hard to match. But, there’s also no better feeling than breaking out of it.
David MacKinnon can attest to that from recent experience. After a slow start to the 2011 season at the plate, he went on a tear this past week, hitting .500 and turning in a 4-hit, 4 RBI clinic on Wednesday against Canton.
Perhaps not by coincidence, Mackinnon’s offensive explosion came on the same day as his defensive switch from centerfield to shortstop. In the two games since the relocation, he has not only transitioned smoothly from the anchor of the outfield to the heart of the infield, but also gone 5-for-7 in the batter’s box.
“I personally really like the change to shortstop. With the pitching that we have this year, there aren’t too many balls hit to the outfield, so I feel more part of the game in the infield,” says MacKinnon. “And, I like shortstop more than center because I’ve played infield my whole life.”
It would be in the Tigers’ best interest to keep him happy. Already one of the league’s best players as a sophomore, he continually turns in plays that make it easy to forget you’re at , not Fenway: he delivers the ball on a rope to home plate from center, turns ground balls deep in the hole at short into close plays at first base, and drives the ball over outfielders’ heads for extra-base hits.
Adding a meticulous work ethic to his awe-inspiring talent, MacKinnon has been polishing his game daily since his T-ball career; he recalls childhood batting practice in his backyard with his dad as his favorite baseball memory. The dedication has lingered on and developed into a nitpicking perfectionism.
“I need to work on my timing at the plate right now because I’ve been inconsistent hitting,” he says. “I would like to bat .400 and make three or less errors this year.” Some high schoolers make three errors in the field in a game.
Mackinnon’s strict self-discipline begins long before he steps between the foul lines, with a rigidly scripted pregame schedule.
“My pregame snack involves eating 2 packages of Welch’s fruit snacks and drinking a Capri Sun juice pouch. My teammates usually make fun of me because it’s a childish snack. Before the game I also do a lot of running exercises to get my legs warm and throw with Ralphie to warm my arm up. I’m a pretty religious person too, so I usually pray before each game.”
Meanwhile, Mackinnon’s athletic prowess expands past the diamond – he has started at goalie for the OA varsity soccer team since his freshman year, and contributed off the bench for the Tiger basketball team this past winter. In January, the Enterprise of Brockton named him a soccer All-Scholastic, and he was also named a Hockomock League All-Star for his goalkeeping.
Baseball remains his favorite sport, however, and the transcendent love affair seems to be prevalent in every aspect of his life. Collecting Major League Baseball hats is his favorite hobby, and journeying to Wendell’s with his teammates is one of his favorite pastimes. And when asked about his favorite school subject, David replies “biology,” not only because of his interest in the processes and details of life, but also because “a few of my baseball and basketball teammates sit next to me in class.”
With baseball on his mind so often, MacKinnon has thought up objectives that seem to be unanimous amongst his teammates: winning the Hockomock League and winning a state title. If he continues to hit like he did on Wednesday, the rest of Massachusetts may not have much of a chance.