In some respects it was a frustrating spring for Ryan McKenna, but frustration is not the emotion McKenna was feeling Tuesday afternoon.
That’s when the Baltimore Orioles selected McKenna in the fourth round (133rd overall) of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. McKenna, a centerfielder who plays for St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, N.H., was the first New England high school player chosen.
“After I was picked there was a feeling of excitement, thankfulness -- and a little bit of relief,” McKenna said. “It’s a pretty up-and-down journey. I didn’t really have any expectations.”
McKenna, 18, missed five of his team’s 16-regular-season games this year because of a strained hamstring. He was healthy enough to play in the postseason, but St. Thomas’ stay in the Division II tournament didn’t last long. The sixth-seeded Saints were upset by 11th-seeded John Stark of Weare in the Division II tournament’s preliminary round.
“It was kind of a tough spot with the injury, but I think I stayed positive during that time,” McKenna said.
McKenna, who lives in Berwick, Maine, has been playing varsity baseball since he was in seventh grade. After three years at Portsmouth Christian Academy in Dover, a school that competes at the Division IV level, he transferred to St. Thomas, where he spent his sophomore, junior and senior years.
“From what I’ve heard, they love his bat speed, his foot speed and his arm,” St. Thomas coach Marc Schoff said earlier this spring. “He also tracks balls tremendously well in center field.
“From what I’ve witnessed over the years and with due respect to all of the kids who’ve played against us, I’ve yet to come across a better overall, legitimate five-tool package than Ryan McKenna.”
McKenna bats and throws right-handed, and is listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. He hit .452 (14 for 31) with five extra-base hits during his injury-shortened senior season, when teams rarely gave him a good pitch to hit. As a junior he batted .552 with eight home runs, six doubles, two triples, 32 RBIs and 24 runs scored.
Here’s the MLB scouting capsule on McKenna:
*McKenna definitely has some tools to help him make an impact. He can really hit, with a line-drive approach and more power to come as he matures. He has very good speed from the right side of the plate and is a threat on the basepaths. That speed gives him the chance to stay in center field and he has more than enough arm for the position. He's strong, stocky and athletic.”
*McKenna was offered -- and accepted -- a scholarship from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., when he was a sophomore. The Orioles have until July 15 to sign McKenna, who earlier this year said he would turn professional right out of high school if the dollar amount was right.
*MLB rules require any player drafted out of high school who doesn’t turn professional to wait three years before he can re-enter the draft.
“We have a pretty good idea as a family what we’re going to do,” McKenna said. “We have good options either way. I’m not sure when we’ll made the decision (public). This is definitely a great moment. Right now I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”