Do It Yourself: Shortstop
Ferris Bueller spent a part of his legendary day off at a Cub game. Ferris’s interest in baseball, though, is not the only thing he has in common with Chiefs shortstop Chris McConnell.
In his first season with the Nationals’ organization, the 25-year-old McConnell has been described by Washington Director of Player Development Doug Harris as “a Major League defender right now.” McConnell, though, was never formally taught the shortstop position before entering pro ball.
“I didn’t have fielding lessons growing up. All I saw was shortstops on TV,” McConnell said recently while sitting in the home dugout at Alliance Bank Stadium. ”I had a tennis ball in the basement and I used to just bounce it and bounce it. There was a mirror hanging up and I’d see it out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes I’d set up a little video tape when I was little and just replay it.”
One of his TV “teachers”, McConnell says, was former New York Met Rey Ordonez.
“He had a little flavor, a little flashiness,” McConnell said. ”I just really liked watching him play.”
Before this season, McConnell had played 654 games seven seasons in the minor leagues. In 599 of those games, he played shortstop–the only position he played growing up.
“It’s where the most action’s at besides catcher,” McConnell said. ”It’s just fun. I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”
Boredom is something McConnell pushes against. The New Jersey native says he spends time on the road walking around the cities he’s visiting as a player.
“I really just do not like sitting around,” McConnell said. ”I live right next to Philly, I like going to museums, walking around different neighborhoods. I just like doing stuff.”
When he’s turning a double play, McConnell plays shortstop just as he uses his free time: actively.
“I’ve never really been taken out (by a runner) knock on wood,” McConnell said, smiling. ”I’m usually pretty good at getting out of the way leaping. I’d rather the second baseman or whoever’s throwing it to me, I’d rather him throw it to me than being scared that I’m going to get taken out.”
McConnell’s adventuresome nature was rather apparent on the day of the Major League Baseball draft in 2004, Chris McConnell’s senior year at Delsea High School. The Royals told McConnell to watch for his name between the third and tenth rounds. With a group including his mother, father, sister, grandfather and now-wife Krystin gathered at his house, McConnell saw rounds pass without hearing anything.
“Once it got into the fifth, sixth, I started getting mad,” McConnell remembered. ”They drafted a shortstop in front of me–I didn’t know he was later going to become a third baseman once he got to pro ball. I got mad. I remember going to my car and driving away.”
“That’s when I got a phone call from the Royals saying they wanted to take me in the next round. So, I quickly drove back like 90 miles an hour and then we listened on the computer and they said my name. I’m glad they called me when they did. If I went about a mile and a half more I had no service in that area so who knows what would have happened then.”
The Royals drafted two shortstops before McConnell that season. Josh Johnson, drafted in the third round, is a third baseman with the Nationals’ Double-A team in Harrisburg. Ed Lucas, drafted in the eighth round, is an infielder for the Gwinnett Braves in the International League. He’s played three times as many games in his career at third base as at shortstop.
The Chiefs and the Rochester Red Wings play game three of four tonight at Alliance Bank Stadium. Catch the game on Time Warner Cable Sports on channel 26, or in HD on channel 813. You can also watch the game online at milb.tv.
The radio broadcast is on The Score 1260 (AM) or online at thescore1260.com.
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