Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
With the Minor League Baseball season being cancelled, the Los Angeles Dodgers included a multitude of prospects in their initial player pool for Summer Camp and the regular season.
One of the beneficiaries is Zach McKinstry, who was a relative unknown until his breakout 2019 season. It was a year that saw him hit a combined .300/.366/.516 with 24 doubles, six triples, 19 home runs and 78 RBI in 121 games between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.
McKinstry continued to swing a hot bat in Spring Training before Major League Baseball temporarily suspended operations due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He nonetheless turned that success into a spot on the Dodgers’ 60-player pool for the 2020 season. “It’s awesome,” McKinstry said of being with the Dodgers in Summer Camp.
“I cherish every moment of it, just try to learn from those guys. Corey Seager and Kiké, taking groundballs next to them, and Chris Taylor and all those guys. Playing against Bellinger, Gavin Lux, facing Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood.
“It’s fun competing against get them and competing with them. It’s pretty awesome getting to make plays for those guys. It’s like no other organization. They talk to you, they try to coach you a little bit, tell you where to go during plays. It was really eye-opening to see how they think about the game and go about their business.”
During the shutdown, McKinstry revealed that he spent most of his time in Arizona trying to sustain his momentum. “Went to Chaparral Park a lot, worked out there, threw, hit some small wiffle balls, some weighted balls,” he said.
“Once the facilities opened back up, I went to Camelback to work with Aaron Bates and Brownie on my swing. Just trying to use that momentum from last year and Spring Training.”
Now that camps have reopened, McKinstry discussed the challenges of playing baseball amid a global pandemic. “It’s definitely changing,” he said.
“Can’t bite your fingernails; that was a big one for me. During quarantine I went and bought stuff for your fingers to try and make sure I wasn’t going to bite my fingernails during the game. Can’t spit. It’s kind of life-changing to not have your hands by your face and with not touching your face as much.”
Whether McKinstry will receive an opportunity at the Major League level this season remains to be seen. But should he get the call, he maintains that he’ll be ready.
“Definitely,” McKinstry said of his confidence of hitting MLB pitching. “I had a pitcher reach out to me and say he enjoyed throwing against me, competing against me and having me behind him when he’s throwing.
“He really thinks I have a pretty good future ahead of me. So I think I have shown some higher-up players that I can compete at the next level.”
McKinstry sensed he was MLB-bound midway through 2019 season
Among the accolades McKinstry earned last season was a selection to the 2019 Texas League All-Star Game. It was at that point he sensed reaching the Majors was realistic.
“Last year when they selected me for the Double-A All-Star Game,” McKinstry said of when he felt he was capable of reaching the big leagues.
“That was a really cool situation. I didn’t really start at the beginning of the year. A guy went down with a hamstring issue, and I just stepped in and kind of took over that role at second base.
“I worked my way into the lineup, played really well and our manager reassured me every day that he had my back no matter what. Being in the lineup just about every day helped my career.”
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