Across all obstacles

By Keaton Cory / Modesto Nuts | July 12, 2017 7:25 PM ET

When faced with the task of describing his journey through college, Nuts' right-handed starting pitcher Reggie McClain let out a sigh, threw on a smile and responded with a laugh and a question of his own. 

"Where do I start?"

 

Reggie McClain's five-year college career started in Georgia, detoured through Florida and ended in Missouri. 

McClain was born in Missouri to parents that were raised in Kansas City before moving to Atlanta. Following a terrific high school career, McClain earned an arm-load of big-time division one scholarship offers. After touring the SEC and ACC, McClain had the chance to stay home.

"It was a dream school," McClain said of the University of Georgia where he started his college career. "I'm from Georgia. I'm a SEC fan. The college is beautiful. It was everything you could ever want in a college, except the playing time."

McClain injured his shoulder the summer before his senior season while playing travel ball which didn't diminish the scholarship offers but it did keep him off the field.

"I missed pretty much my whole senior year. So I had that whole year off to rest. When I got to Georgia my velocity was down. I got redshirted my freshman year," explained McClain.

"After my second fall at Georgia, I decided to transfer mainly because of playing time. I knew I needed time to pitch and be on the mound to get everything back. I really didn't feel the trust from the coaches in me. I had to relocate and find a place I could get some playing time. That's why I went to State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota." 

One of McClain's freshman roommates had transferred there and convinced him to make the move to junior college. 

"That was the biggest thing," McClain said of a trusted recommendation. "He said that if you're down here we'll use your arm. So it made the decision a little bit easier but it was still one of the hardest decisions I had to make. To actually leave, pack up my room and be like 'man this is it for Georgia.'"

After two strong seasons on the mound in JUCO, McLain wasn't receiving the Division 1 offers he had anticipated.

"It was a different recruiting process after visiting 9, 10, 11 SEC and ACC schools that I had offers from [after high school]. You're just wondering, did I make the right choice?" McLain shared. "I was going to go Division 2 at either Nova Southeastern (where current Nuts' pitching coach Pete Woodworth was coaching at the time] or the University of Tampa."

In the fall after two years at junior college, McClain got the call and interest 

he was seeking from the University of Missouri. 

"They got me on a visit and that weekend they offered me [a scholarship]. My second home is Kansas City. A lot of my family is in Kansas City. Two or three days after I got the offer, I committed to Mizzuo and it was one of the best feelings I've ever had, being able to say I made it back to the SEC and to have my family support nearby."

Already over two hurdles, McClain had one more river to forge to get into professional baseball. 

Things started well for McClain at Missouri. In college, they play weekend series and the ace of a pitching staff typically pitches game one of each conference series on Friday nights. The ace of a college staff is referred to as the "Friday Night Guy." That was the roll McClain won in his first year at Missouri. 

He hit the ground running with 22 1/3-inning shutout streak to begin his Mizzou career. A three-time SEC Pitcher of the Week award winner, McClain put together a body of work that many expected earned him the pleasure of hearing his name called during the 2015 MLB draft. 

That didn't happen.

"I was pretty heartbroken about not getting drafted," explained McClain.


"I thought I was going to get my name called in that draft. It waskind of mindboggling to me."

So after four years of navigating roadblocks, McClain had to go back to work for his fifth and final season of college eligibility.

"In the long run, it honestly made me a better person," McClain evaluated. "Getting drafted is out of my control. What I can control is what I do on the mound and that's the mindset that I took into my senior year. I'm here to do me and not please anybody else. I want to prove to myself that I'm worthy instead of proving to other people."

McCLain made a believer out of himself and the Mariners organization after another stellar season as the ace of Mizzou's staff. 

"As I look back now, that was something where [I faced the question of] 'what are you going to do when you face an obstacle?' Are you going to crash and burn or are you going to get up and keep competing?"

On June 10th, 2016, McClain finally got his name called by the Seattle Mariners in the 13th round. 

"I wouldn't have changed a thing if I didn't get drafted but," McClain described of the draft experience "I made it to the next level, the next tier of players that I grew up wanting to compete against. It was one of those great feelings like, 'man I did it.'"

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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