Kevin McGonigle is on the fast track to baseball success. Adobe Stock / Thomas
He’s just 18 years old, but Kevin McGonigle is catching the attention of Major League Baseball teams across America ahead of the MLB Draft.
July 10 Update: Kevin McGonigle was selected 37th overall in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. That selection carries an expected slot bonus of $2.31 million.
The moment was likely made more special by Raúl Ibañez, a former Phillies player from 2009-11 who McGonigle would have watched throughout this childhood, who announced Detroit’s selection of the infielder from Delaware County.
As an Auburn commit, McGonigle and the Tigers are expected to enter negotiations regarding a bonus offer to get McGonigle in their minor league system. It is unlikely, however, that the Tigers would draft McGonigle as early in the draft without some idea that he would accept their offer.
Kevin McGonigle reminds pretty much everyone of the greatest middle infielder in Philadelphia Phillies history. He’s a hard-nosed, hard-working second baseman who can hit for power from the left side, but he and Chase Utley couldn’t have grown up in more different environments.
Utley grew up on the sunny West Coast in Pasadena, CA, a hotspot for baseball talent where warm weather means the game can be played year round. McGonigle, however, was raised in the sleepy Delaware County town of Aldan, host to a population just under 5,000. A graduate of Upper Darby’s Bonner Prendergast, he’s as steeped in Delco culture as anyone.
Not 15 minutes outside of Philadelphia proper, McGonigle has a strong affiliation with his hometown. In fact, one of his earliest memories is watching Utley hit a home run in the 2008 World Series.
There aren’t many people who can remember back to their early childhood, but McGonigle has fond recollections of banging pots and pans outside his house at age four after the 2008 Phillies and Utley brought the Philadelphia area its first championship in a quarter of a century.
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Like just about every other young boy, McGonigle spent much of his childhood with his friends playing wallball, wiffleball, baseball and anything that could be made into a competition.
Most kids holding a wiffleball bat in a friend’s backyard pretend they’re at the plate in a Major League game and, for 99.9% of the population, imagination is all it is. But for McGonigle and his friends, many of whom are on similar tracks, it’s now a legitimate opportunity.
“I want to be the best to ever live,” McGonigle says.
It’s hard to imagine that phrase coming out of the mouths of most non-athletes, but for an 18-year-old likely to be selected in the MLB Draft ahead of hundreds of 22-year-old college players, it’s not entirely out of the question.
McGonigle has a lot of developing to do, but for someone who hit nearly .500 across three years of high school, he’s remarkably further along than many his age. His words also demonstrate McGonigle’s passion for the game. Even his bio on MLB.com calls him “gritty,” notes his “high baseball IQ” and mentions his “aggressive nature” on the diamond.
It’s something McGonigle built with years of practice and determination, starting with his dad in his childhood living room. For hours at night, his dad would toss him Nerf balls while a young McGonigle would smack them into the corner of the room with his souvenir Phillies bat, building hand-eye coordination from an early age.
No matter the circumstances next year though, McGonigle will be reminded of his youth next season. Though he could either end up competing against older players at his committed school, Auburn, or against older players in the minor leagues, McGonigle will be playing ahead of his level.
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He will, inevitably, make mistakes over the course of the season. Baseball is a game in which the best succeed only three times out of 10, and any ballplayer who doesn’t recognize that is doomed for failure.
“I just clear my mind,” McGonigle says about dealing with adversity. “I known you’re gonna fail more than you succeed.”
His mindset will be key when it comes to making baseball his profession. McGonigle might not run into a sustained slump next year, or the next three years, given his potential. But it will come for him eventually, whether it’s in six weeks or six years. Even Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds went through slumps.
McGonigle, though, has a chance to do something neither of those legends accomplished: be drafted in the first round out of high school. He currently ranks 33rd on MLB.com’s Draft Pipeline. The first round of the draft has 39 picks, so McGonigle has some wiggle room.
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However, he might choose not to sign with a team at all. Even if he is drafted, McGonigle could still decide to turn down the offer and go to college, hone his skills, and potentially get selected even higher in four years.
Right now he’s still somewhat small, though that’s not uncommon for a second baseman or shortstop. Just 5’10” and 187 lbs, he’s the shortest player in the top 100 draft prospects. College would likely be helpful in raising his draft stock. Nevertheless, it’d be hard to turn down a multi-million dollar offer from a professional baseball club.
The next two weeks could prove to be the most critical in McGonigle’s life thus far. They’ll decide whether he ends up living in a small town somewhere in middle America for the next three to five years, earning less than minimum wage on a minor league paycheck, or whether he spends his next years in college, focusing on the Auburn Tigers and his major, sports management.
Either way, one thing will still be the same. Kevin McGonigle will still be a determined young man looking to make the most of both his raw talent and the grind he’s put into baseball over his life.
Just like his idol Chase Utley, all McGonigle wants from people is to be known as “a hard-nosed kid that will never give up and will always work hard no matter what.”