Ocean City’s Jake McKenna Signs with Phillies

Ocean City’s Jake McKenna Signs with Phillies
It’s been quite a whirlwind for Jake McKenna. Despite missing his senior high school baseball season at Ocean City due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 6-foot-7 lefthander finds himself in the professional ranks.
And adding to his excitement, McKenna signed with the organization he grew up rooting for – the Phillies.
This year the MLB draft shrunk from 40 rounds to just five. Anybody not drafted in the five rounds could sign as a free agent for no more than $20,000 in addition to tuition reimbursement.
McKenna was ready to continue his baseball career and education at St. Joseph’s University but that changed after a flurry of calls on June 15.
That was the day that MLB teams were able to begin contacting and signing undrafted payers.
“I talked to a bunch of guys in the organization and a couple of guys in the minor leagues and they all said the Phillies have a super family atmosphere, they can talk to any coach on and off the field,” McKenna said in a phone interview. “They said if you put in the work, you will have an opportunity, no matter how much you are getting paid.”
The fact that the Phillies offered to pay for his education, was the turning point, according to McKenna.
“If they couldn’t cover (college tuition) I wouldn’t be able to go,” he said. “It was too much of a risk.”
Due to the virus, McKenna isn’t sure of his next destination, but he says if there is an instructional league in the fall, that could be where he will be. For now, he is receiving virtual instruction. For instance, last week he took part in a mini camp on zoom.
What is amazing about McKenna is how little he pitched at Ocean City. Last year as a junior he was used as a closer and threw just 10 innings. McKenna struck out 18 and walked 13 and posted a 0.84 ERA.
There were two reasons for McKenna’s low usage. Ocean City had a stacked rotation last year and would have had the same this season. In addition, coach Andrew Bristol doesn’t overuse his pitchers.
This year alone, there were four Division I pitchers on the staff. That included lefthander Matt Noonan, who will be a senior next season and has committed to Boston College. Rising senior Gannon Brady has committed to Fordham. Rising junior righthander Tommy Finnegan has made a commitment to perennial college power Vanderbilt.
Had there been a season this year, McKenna would have seen more action.
“He was a rising kid who last summer put together an unbelievable summer,” Bristol said. “He was going to have a big high school season this year.”
Bristol, who has been a coach at Ocean City for 25 years, including the last three as head coach (including 2020), says McKenna reported to preseason practice so much stronger than a year ago.
“He really worked on his off-speed stuff and his curveball is big-time,” Bristol said.
Since he signed, McKenna has received an endless number of texts and congratulatory phone calls.
“I sat down a couple of days ago and caught up with all the texts and it took a couple of hours,” McKenna said. “I am super thankful of all the people who took the time to congratulate me.”

And he is thankful to receive the chance to begin his professional career, with the team he grew up rooting for.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo Courtesy of Jake McKenna

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