By Devin Golden
As the valedictorian of Christian Heritage School’s Class of 2013, Michael McKinney was tasked with giving a speech during Friday night’s commencement ceremony. His planned topic was memories.
Hours before he was set to give the seven-minute talk, he added something to his personal file of moments he’ll reminisce about years from now.
A three-sport standout for the Lions the past two seasons in baseball, basketball and football, McKinney signed a baseball scholarship with Georgia College and State University at Christian Heritage. The 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound McKinney might have pursued college opportunities in any of his sports, but he had decided what he wanted to go after by the time he reached high school.
And for McKinney, a left-hander who expects to primarily pitch in college after also playing first base for the Lions, it wasn’t that difficult a call, no matter how much he enjoyed the other seasons of the sports year.
“They say college sports is a job, and football and basketball, I love playing but I don’t know that I could do it to that level,” McKinney said. “With baseball, if it’s a job, I could definitely do that.”
If McKinney’s dream is to be a successful athlete, he’s already living it, and that was true even before he signed with Georgia College — the school is in Milledgeville and the Bobcats are a member of the NCAA Division II’s Peach Belt Conference — based on his accomplishments with the Lions.
Throughout his time at Christian Heritage, McKinney has been a key player for the baseball team and coach Noah Stokes.
As a freshman in the first state playoff game of his high school career, McKinney pitched a one-hitter and slugged a go-ahead three-run homer to lead the Lions to a road win. On his way to earning a spot as a utility player on The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Baseball Team in 2012 — this year’s lineup will be announced later this month — McKinney hit .301, led the Lions in RBIs, was undefeated on the mound and earned a pair of saves as he struck out 59 batters in 58 innings. As a senior, he went 6-4 with a 2.67 ERA.
An honorable mention for all-area baseball as a sophomore, he also earned honorable mention on the all-area football squad each of the past two seasons — the only two years he played that sport in high school — and was an all-area selection for basketball as a junior and earned honorable mention on the court as a sophomore and senior.
Stokes was glad to have McKinney around, and not just because he could throw hard.
“He was always one of those you could count on to do more than you asked and to lead his team by example,” Stokes said. “He was always good spirited — just a coach’s dream in all regards. ... He was our best hitter most years and our best pitcher most years, so you wanted to see him at the plate and you felt pretty good when you sent him to the mound.”
Georgia College went 36-19 this season, won the Peach Belt Conference tournament championship for the first time and came two wins short of earning a spot in the Division II College World Series. The Bobcats are coached by Tom Carty, who has a 212-117 record in his six seasons leading the program.
“I think I have a good chance of competing there, and I think they have a good chance of competing as a team,” McKinney said.
Stokes believes McKinney will help the Bobcats keep moving forward
“He’s got some good baseball ahead of him,” Stokes said. “He’ll have just as positive an effect on their team as he did on my team.”