For a second straight year, the Oakland A's went with a high school position player with their number one overall pick. In 2012, shortstop Addison Russell was the A's pick and he wowed in his professional debut season. This year, the A's tabbed Texas high school outfielder Billy McKinney with their first overall selection. McKinney, like Russell, had an impressive pro debut.
McKinney spent the majority of his season with the A's Arizona Rookie League team. He got off to a bit of a slow start with the AZL A's, but he finished with a solid .320/.383/.414 line in 181 AZL at-bats. With a little more than a week left in the regular season, McKinney was promoted from the AZL to short-season Vermont. With the Lake Monsters, he had a red-hot nine-game stretch. In 34 at-bats, McKinney hit .353 with five extra-base hits. He also walked three times. In total, McKinney finished his pro debut with a .326/.387/.437 line.
Donald Moore spoke with McKinney during his stretch with the Lake Monsters.
Donald Moore: How is this year going for you?
Billy McKinney: It's a lot of fun. It's definitely been an transition, but having a lot of fun meeting the guys, and coming out here and playing ball everyday.
DM: Do you feel any pressure being the number one pick, performance-wise?
BM: I know people expect things from me, but I just try to go out there and play my game. And play how I know I can play. And just do my best every game.
DM: I have to ask, you are not related to former A's player Rich McKinney?
BM: No I'm not. I was asked that same thing in Oakland, but I'm not, at least from my knowledge.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a ballplayer?
BM: I'd say my hard work, and how I go and play the game, really. I play with full intensity every game. I play my hardest at all times.
DM: What would you'd like to improve on?
BM: Every aspect of the game definitely. I've just got to do my best at everything.
DM: Coming out of high school, straight into the pros, how are you adjusting to professional baseball?
BM: It's definitely an adjustment playing with older guys – guys older, bigger, stronger and it's been fun. Definitely seen a lot of talent. Everybody is talented here, and it's fun learning things from other guys, too, because they know how to play the game and just getting better, just learning.
DM: What is the best thing that you like about being a professional baseball player?
BM: I guess not really having the classwork right now. All my buddies are at school, so I come out here and play ball everyday.
DM: Any pregame routines?
BM: You know, I just listen to my music, get some batting practice in and try to zone in really. Just focus up to the game a few hours earlier and depends on what I'm going to try to do that night.
DM: Favorite thing you like to do off the field?
BM: I like spending time with my friends and going golfing.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
BM: I mean everybody asks me about that, but I always liked the way the A's played. I always liked watching them and I grew up 45 minutes from the Rangers, so I went to a lot of Rangers games. They were my favorite team I guess, but I love the way the A's play at all times.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
BM: My dad, definitely. He taught me how to be persistent, and every single day, he'd take me out to the park and we'd hit everyday. And that was a big part of me just growing up playing baseball. My mom was a big part of it, too. She'd always be talking to me and giving me good advice and helping me, even when I didn't want to hear it after a bad game and my dad definitely pushed me really hard, too, to be the best I could be.
DM: Craziest thing you ever saw on a baseball diamond?
BM: Summer baseball, last summer in the Connie Mack World Series. My team was up seven to two, and we walked in eight runs with two outs and two strikes, and lost ten to seven.
DM: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
BM: Not sure, I'll guess I'll see where the A's place me, but I'm going to try my best to be a big leaguer. That's my goal and that's what I aspire to be. And that's my dream, so I'm going to try my best to get up there.
DM: Billy, it's been a pleasure and an honor speaking and meeting you. The best of luck to you and your baseball career.
BM: Thank very much, sir.