A decision that paid off

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A decision that paid off

After choosing baseball over hockey, catcher Adam McGinnis has made the most of his time at Western.

After choosing baseball over hockey, catcher Adam McGinnis has made the most of his time at Western.

Mike Frederiksen

After choosing baseball over hockey, catcher Adam McGinnis has made the most of his time at Western.

Mike Frederiksen

Mike Frederiksen

After choosing baseball over hockey, catcher Adam McGinnis has made the most of his time at Western.

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Adam McGinnis just wanted to find a sport he loved, and could see himself playing for a long time.

He loved hockey and baseball. He had to choose which one to focus on for the rest of his life.

It wasn’t an easy decision.

But in high school, McGinnis made his choice, and safe to say, it has paid off.

Multi-talented child

Growing up in a family in which both parents and both siblings played sports, McGinnis began playing baseball at the young age of 6 and instantly fell in love. The problem was, he already had his heart set on another sport.

With his stocky frame, McGinnis was a hockey player and enjoyed the sport very much.

“I played outdoor hockey when I was five up until high school,” he said. “I loved playing hockey.”

As he began to grow up, the junior catcher learned to take baseball more to heart by the time he was in junior high playing travel ball.

Stationed out of the Bloomington/Normal area was the Bloomington Normal Baseball Association (BNBA) travel baseball club. It was the main club McGinnis played on, but he also played on a couple teams out of the Chicago area.

Hockey was still in the picture, and once McGinnis got to high school, he realized he had to narrow his focus down to one sport.

“The time I had to put into that and school on top of that, it just wasn’t working out,” he said. “My time playing hockey was up when it was up, and I knew I wanted to play baseball.”

After what he called a “tough decision,” McGinnis chose the sport of baseball and quit playing hockey his sophomore year. He dabbled in basketball to stay in shape for the grueling spring baseball season.

“I knew my future was in baseball,” McGinnis said. “I didn’t have a future in basketball, but baseball-wise, I was more talented and it was a better fit
for me.”

The primary sport was baseball, and he had already established a bond with someone close to him, closer than he might have realized.

Deep connection

When McGinnis was a sophomore at Normal West High School, Ryan Brownlee was the recruiting coordinator at Iowa. He had plenty of interest
in McGinnis.

“I saw Adam play when he was in high school and with BNBA,” Brownlee said. “I had seen him quite a bit before I got the job at Western.”

Fast forward to 2012, when Brownlee was hired to coach the Leathernecks baseball team. In 2013, he still needed a catcher to fill out his recruiting class, and McGinnis was still available.

At that time, Illinois State and Heartland Community College were the only two colleges looking at McGinnis extensively. Once Brownlee was hired at Western, he became involved.

“He was one of the first kids I contacted when I got the job,” Brownlee said. “We were just very fortunate he was still available in October his senior year.”

A couple of visits and one scholarship offer later, McGinnis was about to call Macomb, Illinois his home.

“It’s always a good process, but I knew this would be the right place,” McGinnis said. “As soon as he got the head coaching job here, he called me to come on a visit and I knew from then this is where I wanted to play baseball.”

Brownlee locked up his catcher and the guy he wanted since he was at Iowa, and he wasn’t about to let his talents go to waste.

Immediate impact

McGinnis didn’t disappoint Brownlee in his first season donning a Leatherneck jersey.

He started 38 games, 32 of them behind the plate, had a perfect fielding percentage and hit the ball consistently.

His .281 batting average, .348 slugging percentage and .338 on base percentage ranked right alongside his teammates. He also brought in 19 runs and hit two homeruns, including a grand slam.

Overall, McGinnis said it was a solid first season.

“It was a good learning experience,” he added. “You get into a lot of situations, but the fact that I could get those experiences, it has helped me. I was thankful for the opportunity. It was kind of an eye-opener, but I knew I was ready.”

His head coach felt the same way.

“Seeing him as much as I did in high school, I knew he could come in and help us,” Brownlee said. “I wasn’t surprised that he came in and did what
he did.”

McGinnis was beginning to get into a groove, and was expecting the same in his sophomore season.  But, not everything turns out the way it’s supposed to go.

Shift change

Injuries had put a setback on the Leathernecks. So with no available third baseman and Mark Garton returning from injury, McGinnis would realize he wouldn’t be catching his sophomore year.

Instead, he would be moving over to third base, a position he started three games at during his freshman season.

“It was different,” McGinnis said. “I kind of had to step out of (my comfort zone), but after awhile, it’s just another position on the field.”

Brownlee knew he wouldn’t complain because of the type of person he is.

“He’s a very tough-minded and competitive kid,” he said. “He handled it great.”

There was a lot of pressure that McGinnis put on himself, and it showed in his hitting.

Despite an increase in RBIs and homeruns, McGinnis batted .243 and struck out 21 times, 11 more than his first season.

“Sophomore year was a down year hitting-wise,” McGinnis said. “I felt like I had to be the man, but I shouldn’t have needed to do that. Just stay relaxed.”

It was an adjustment for the catcher, but he said a year off from behind the plate was not a bad thing.

“Squatting down nine innings a game takes a toll on you,” he added.

Back at home

Originally, McGinnis was planning on being the starting catcher once again, but an injury put a scare into that hope.

A foot injury last spring and re-injuring later put McGinnis on the mend and the possibility of him catching again was in doubt.

With the help of the training staff, the business management major was able to get the necessary treatment and help he needed to get back on the field.

“I knew CJ (Schaeffer) had a great fall, Mark Garton had a great fall, so I didn’t know what to expect,” McGinnis said. “Coach had told me, ‘Hey, I plan on having you behind the dish.’”

In the midst of his junior season, McGinnis has been more patient at the plate, and being back in his natural position has helped that.

“Hitting started out a little slow, started to pick back up” he said. “For the most part, everything is going well.”

Brownlee has been pleased with McGinnis’ transition back to catcher, as well as seeing him teach freshman CJ Schaeffer on how to be a good catcher at the next level.

“He’s helped CJ a lot,” Brownlee said. “They have a great relationship. It’s fun to watch them behind the plate.”

Schaeffer appreciates what McGinnis has done for him.

“He helped me improve a lot,” he said. “It is kind of a blessing.”

The next level

McGinnis hasn’t reflected yet on his career. He doesn’t want to do that right now.

“I’m taking it one day at a time,” he said. “It’s not time to reflect; we’ll save that until when I graduate and I play my last baseball game.”

The thought of being in the professional ranks has crossed McGinnis’ mind. It’s a goal he’s had since he was little.

“I think there’s a chance,” McGinnis said. “There’s a possibility if it happens, I’ll be more than thankful for that opportunity. If it doesn’t, I’ll continue on with my life.”

Brownlee has had two former Leathernecks drafted, and hopes McGinnis can be his third.

“There’s not of ton of catching out there,” he said. “I’ve had catchers drafted, but I’m not focusing on that.”

There’s still another year left to go, but the memories McGinnis has made during his time in Macomb will stay with him forever.

“The friendships I’ve made here are unbelievable,” he said. “All the guys are great, the coaching staff, the community, all those relationships I’m going to take away from here positively.”

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