For the moment, Jeremy McKinney earns a paycheck working as a lifeguard at a local pool.
If all goes according to plan, he’ll eventually make a living doing what he truly loves: playing baseball.
One of two Johnson County players selected to play in the 2013 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North-South All-Star series, McKinney is also one of two with serious professional aspirations.
The other is former Greenwood standout Alex Krupa, who recently turned down an offer from the Cincinnati Reds and will attend Iowa Western Community College.
McKinney, a 2013 Franklin graduate, is contemplating giving up a scholarship at the University of Cincinnati to play at Iowa Western, with a goal of better positioning himself for a shot at being drafted by a Major League Baseball team.
“I’m hoping one day my job is going to be playing baseball, what I love,” said McKinney, who was one of the state’s top pitchers the past two seasons. “So I’m not too worried about what I’m doing here (at the pool).
“I’m more worried about going to play some baseball.”
A high-velocity right-hander with an expanding array of pitches, McKinney has accepted
a partial baseball scholarship from Cincinnati but is weighing seeking a release after the firing of longtime head coach Brian Cleary.
McKinney, who helped lead Franklin to its best season since 1995, is waiting to see what
Iowa Western might offer, scholarship-wise. If the package is right, he’s leaning heavily toward the move.
His sole objective is to improve his chances for being drafted. He is confident junior college might be the quicker path.
“I feel like if I went to a juco right now, I feel like this would sharpen up my tools to do bigger things in life,” McKinney said. “And I only have to go for two years before I can get drafted there. I love Cincinnati’s campus. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything there.
“But I feel like if I can sharpen up my tools I can play somewhere (professionally).”
Franklin coach Paul Strack is confident McKinney has the physical tools to seriously chase his dream. But Strack insists the player’s biggest asset might be what he brings to the mental plate.
“There was nothing Jeremy hated more in the game of baseball than getting beat,” Strack said. “He took it very personally, and I love that. I love that about him, and the team fed off that, as well.”
Proof is in the results.
McKinney was a leader on a team that won Johnson County, Mid-State Conference and sectional championships. The unranked Cubs’ magical season ended at the Class 4A regional, where they lost a 1-0 heartbreaker against No. 2 Jeffersonville.
“In the beginning, we weren’t really expected to do much, to be honest with you,” McKinney said. “We were thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be a mediocre season, we’re going to be under .500 again,’ but we kind of stepped up and said, ‘That’s not going to be our attitude this year.’
“We kind of took the reins, and we made sure that we were going to push ourselves to be the best we could possibly be.”
McKinney had one of the firmest grips on the reins.
One of the state’s top pitchers, he finished 8-3 with a 1.77 ERA and a team-leading 132 strikeouts. His best pitches are an 88 mph fastball and slider, along with an effective change-up he’s still mastering.
Moving forward, the challenge will be to refine the pitches he has command of and develop at least a couple of more for a shot at professional baseball.
“He certainly has the make-up of somebody who could pitch at the next level,” Strack said. “Where I think he will continue to improve, and where I think he needs to continue to improve, is adding in the command of a third pitch, which is the change-up, and then going and developing a fourth pitch, as well, and then throwing all of those pitches for strikes.
“College baseball is going to be good for him. It’s going to humble him a little bit, but that will be good for him.”
McKinney, who plays four to five times a week with the Indiana Bulls 18-under travel team, can’t wait to get started, whether it be at Cincinnati or Western Iowa.
He just wants to play, with a future eye on being drafted.
“This year was just a stepping stone toward my college career. I feel like I did pretty well this year,” McKinney said. “(Pro) ball is a lifelong dream. I’m sure a lot of other people say that. It’s always been my dream to achieve my highest goal, which is to go play some pro baseball.”