Stepping to the box on Opening Day as the first batter for the Rocket City Trash Pandas on May 5 at Chattanooga, David MacKinnon wasted no time in making history. In his first game action in nearly two years, the Trash Pandas first baseman lined a single to center and
Stepping to the box on Opening Day as the first batter for the Rocket City Trash Pandas on May 5 at Chattanooga, David MacKinnon wasted no time in making history. In his first game action in nearly two years, the Trash Pandas first baseman lined a single to center and came around to score the first Rocket City run. For the Easton, Massachusetts native, that would be a sign of things to come.
MacKinnon has been the Trash Pandas’ most consistent hitter and one of the top players in Double-A South to start the season. The awards have since followed, as MacKinnon was named both Double-A South Player of the Month of June and MAG Aerospace Trash Pandas Player of the Month.
Entering July, he led the Southern circuit with a .331 batting average, .415 on-base percentage, .917 OPS, and 12 doubles. He also ranked among the league leaders in slugging percentage (2nd, .534), hits (4th, 48), runs (27th, 8th), and RBI (9th, 26).
Heading into the second half of the season, MacKinnon sat down to talk about his road to Rocket City and his first action at the Double-A level.
Q: Who were your favorite teams and players growing up?
A: For me, I grew up just south of Boston in a town called Easton. I was a Boston sports fan growing up. My favorite baseball team was the Red Sox and my favorite player was Manny Ramirez. I liked Nomar Garciaparra too. So those were the guys that I looked up to when I was younger. As I got older, Big Papi, David Ortiz was up there.
Q: What was your reaction to getting selected by the Angels in the 32nd round of the 2017 draft?
A: The year prior I was following the draft pick by pick because I was told I was going to get drafted between the 8th and 20th round and then nothing ended up happening after my junior year. I had a really good year so I was expecting it, it was depressing that I didn’t get drafted. That summer I got to play in the Cape Cod League again and that’s where I met my wife. That following year I wasn’t really following the draft at all. I was told I’d probably be drafted between rounds 25-40 as a senior and I was completely happy with that and I ended up getting drafted in the 32nd round. Once you get the chance to play, you don’t sign for as much money so you don’t get as much leeway or room for error, but if you show you can play, you’ll stick around for a while.
Q: Early in your career, what was one moment that made you feel like a professional?
A: When I was in High-A, the first big name I saw was Clay Buchholz. I grew up watching him in Boston. He came to rehab in Visalia, and I got to hit against him and I went 2-for-2. That was the coolest moment.
Q: When the pandemic shut down the 2020 season, how did you spend the time?
A: When it got shut down, everyone was under the impression that it was going to be a couple weeks, not an entire year. All of the sudden it was the entire year. The first couple weeks, I went back to Houston where my wife is from and continued to train until June. Once I wasn’t in the 60-man player pool, our season was over and I went back home to Massachusetts, visited my family and it was nice to spend a summer at home and see family and friends that I don’t usually get to see.
Q: You have a hit in 34 of your first 39 games, how have you been so dependable at the plate?
A: The biggest difference in years past is I wasn’t able to grind through those at-bats. I wasn’t able to draw walks or get a hit. I’m not feeling 100 percent comfortable at the plate and I don’t think I’ve hit my stride yet. But now I’ve been able to grind through the tough days and hit a single or a double and make it a 1-for-3 day. That’s the difference, even with my C game, I’m able to still get a hit and help the team.
*Q: You have been described as a leader on this team, is that always how you’ve played the game? *
A: I try to keep it loose. I think as a professional baseball player you should take care of business the right way. I try to keep people loose and after tough at-bats or tough days, I try to be the same person if I’m 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. You’re going to get frustrated every once in a while, but 10 seconds after the at-bat happens it’s over. I try to be like that. Every day is a new day. I want to be the same person joking around and having fun. It’s a blessing to be able to play and I had it taken away from me for two years so I’m happy to be here now.
Q: What should we expect when you come to the plate?
A: You should expect a good at-bat. If I get four at-bats, it’s going to be four quality at-bats. I’m going to try to make the pitcher work and try to make him get me out. I don’t want to get myself out. I want him to have to execute pitches to get me out. I want it to be a grind for him to get me out. When I put it in play, I want to put it in play hard. I don’t want it to be me waving at pitches in going back to the dugout. I take pride in being a tough out.
Q: If you weren’t playing baseball, what would you be doing?
A: I can’t imagine my life without baseball now. I don’t know what I’d do if I was not playing baseball. I went to school for accounting but I definitely wouldn’t want to do accounting. I have no idea, and I hope I don’t have to decide. I hope baseball is always a part of it.