Prep Baseball: Injured senior still an impact player for Mercer
Drew McGill is hugged by Mercer County teammate Matthew Honchel during the Titans' celebration after they won their first regional championship last week. McGill, who joined the team this season, was injured in an automobile accident last month. (Clay Jackson)
The impact the seldom-used senior has made in his one and only season with the Titans can’t be measured, and now his teammates are returning the favor.
McGill was seriously injured in an automobile accident just over a month ago, and he watched Mercer’s march to its first 12th regional championship from a wheelchair rather than from the dugout. But his teammates did their best to make sure he was still part of the team, wheeling him onto the field when they accepted their trophy and placing him front and center when they posed for a team photo.
“Drew’s went through a lot, and even after the wreck he was still all about us, all about our baseball team,” pitcher-outfielder Clay Cinnamon said. “He’s lucky to be alive, and he has so much pride for our baseball program, and we just appreciated it.”
McGill’s accident has also given his teammates more of an appreciation for how fragile life can be. Teenagers don’t usually dwell on life and death unless they have to, and the Titans had to after McGill’s very close call when he was injured in a May 7 crash on U.S. 68 east of Harrodsburg.
“Looking at the pictures, he’s lucky to be alive. We’re lucky we’re not dealing with the death of a teammate,” Mercer coach Jeremy Shope said. “That’s why I guess it’s super special. It really taught me and the team a lesson. You never know when it can be taken from you.”
Shope said McGill had left with his father after a game in Somerset, and they returned to the Mercer fieldhouse, where he picked up his mother’s vehicle and started home on U.S. 68 east of Harrodsburg.
“I can remember the weekend before — it may have even been the night before — I¿said, ‘Drew, please be careful,’” Shope said.
Shope said the vehicle left the road and struck a tree that was just 10 yards or so off the pavement. McGill suffered a shattered ankle in one leg and a broken bone in the other, a broken collar bone and a handful of other less severe injuries. The teen needed three surgeries — two in one day and one on another — but Shope said the long-term prognosis is good.
“That’s what’s special about it, that he is going to be OK once he’s able to start rehabbing,”¿Shope said.
As soon as he was well enough to see visitors, the entire Mercer team took a bus to Lexington to see him in the hospital. And first baseman Colin Buckner said the Titans were thrilled that McGill was able to join their celebration last week “because he (might not) be here right now.
“You never know what the Lord’s going to do on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a great feeling that he’s here to celebrate with us, and it just gives us extra motivation for him and everyone else,” Buckner said.
McGill played golf for Mercer — he was the team’s low scorer in the regional tournament last fall — but he had also played baseball before transferring to Mercer early in high school, and he had made friends at the school with players who were on the team.
“Me and Matthew (Honchel) and Clay and Anthony (Patterson) and Brooks (Meredith) have all been really close friends, and we told him to come out here and play, just to hang out, and he’s been a great teammate while he was playing and now as well,” Buckner said.
Shope said he needed a little convincing to keep McGill on the roster.
“The guys went to bat for him during tryouts,” Shope said. “They said, ‘Coach, if it’s at all possible, we’d like to keep Drew around. He’s a good friend and a good teammate.’
“They were definitely right on that. He volunteered to do anything that needed to be done, pick up equipment, whatever. I said, ‘Drew, I’d like to keep you around if you want to be around, but I¿can’t promise you you’re going to play. He said, ‘I know, Coach, I just want to be a part of it.’ He had friends on the team who were always talking about how much fun it was, and he just enjoyed being part of that.”
McGill struck out in his only plate appearance and got into one other game as a pinch-runner, but Shope said he’s sure having him around was good for the other seniors.
“It’s good to have team chemistry, and he definitely brought that to the table,” Shope said.
“He just came out here to be with his friends like us,” he said. “He was a great teammate, and he’s a great teammate still.”