McMahon: The Strong Who Has Survived

SCOTTSDALE, AZ – Ryan McMahon was miserable. There he was, 21 years old, the youngest American-born player in the Double-A Eastern League, a third baseman who was being asked to learn how to play first base and with a Rockies affiliate at Hartford that spent the season on the road because of delays in constructing a stadium.

“I hated it,” he said. “It was the worst.”

At the time, that is.

In reflection, however, McMahon must admit that what seemed like the worst was actually the best thing that could have happened to him. He grew up in a hurry, emotionally and mentally. And what the Rockies like is they got to see how McMahon would deal with adversity.

In baseball, like in life, the strong are who survive.  Baseball is a game built around failure – being successful three out of every 10 at-bats is considered potential Hall of Fame material – and the ones who survive in the game have mental toughness to handle that challenge.

That being the case the future is bright for McMahon, who is giving indications this spring that he is ready to take that next step, into the big-league starting lineup at first base on Opening Day.

And, he admits, what success he is going to have will be in large part the product of that 2016 season.

“That changed my career and changed my life in a positive way,” said McMahon.

That says a lot.

Consider that McMahon was a second-round draft choice of the Rockies in 2013, coming out of Mater Dei High School, where he was a quarterback on the football team, and the Trinity League MVP as a shortstop on the baseball team his senior year.

He was a Topps Short-Season/Rookie All-Star in his pro debut at Grand Junction in 2013, ranked the 95th best prospect in all of baseball in 2014, and a minor-league All-All Star in 2015 at High-A Modesto.

Then came the trip to Hartford in 2016. He hit .242 – 71 points below his composite average for the four other years he has been in the Rockies system – and struck out a personal-high 161 times.

“It was difficult for sure, but at the end of the day it was still baseball,” he said. “I don’t know if having a home ballpark would have helped me that year. It wasn’t a fun year, but I look back on it and I am thankful for what I went through.”

The late Hal Keller, one of the game’s great talent evaluators, loved to say, “I can’t tell you how good a player can be until I see how bad he can be.”

Well, McMahon was sent back to Hartford to open the 2017 season, and after 49 games and a .326 average with six home runs and 32 RBI he was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he hit .374 in 70 games with 14 home runs and 56 RBI.

“I had no confidence in myself (in 2016) and this past year I felt I did a good job of getting my confidence back,” he said. “It was a matter of focusing on what you can do and sticking with your routine. It was about being in the right mind set day in and day out;”

He was the Double-A Eastern League Player of the Month for April, and Triple-A Pacific Coast League Player of the Month for June. He appeared in the Futures Game, and was the MiLB.com Fan’s Choice for Best Offensive Player in the Minor Leagues.

Oh, and he not only settled in at first base, but continued to get time at third base and found himself playing some at second base, adding to his versatility. Oh, and this spring he leads the Rockies with 12 hits, including three doubles and a home run.

“There were times I definitely folded (in 2016), but because of it I am where I am today, so I am thankful,” he said. “There were times I was giving up on myself, going up there scared. I had no confidence.”

He paused and shook his head from side to side.

“I learned so much from it,” he said. “I was giving up on myself, going up there scared, no confidence. So yeah, I learned a lot from it, but I’m glad that year’s done with.”

In other words, Keller would have liked what he saw.

The Rockies do, too.

In reflection, however, McMahon must admit that what seemed like the worst was actually the best thing that could have happened to him. He grew up in a hurry, emotionally and mentally. And what the Rockies like is they got to see how McMahon would deal with adversity.

In baseball, like in life, the strong are who survive.  Baseball is a game built around failure – being successful three out of every 10 at-bats is considered potential Hall of Fame material – and the ones who survive in the game have mental toughness to handle that challenge.

That being the case the future is bright for McMahon, who is giving indications this spring that he is ready to take that next step, into the big-league starting lineup at first base on Opening Day.

And, he admits, what success he is going to have will be in large part the product of that 2016 season.

“That changed my career and changed my life in a positive way,” said McMahon.

That says a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

Tracy RingolsbyComment