Diamond in the ruff: Cal McKim

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Aug 7, 2011

DIAMOND IN THE RUFF: Cal McKim

By Van Williams

When South Post 4 lost its only catcher to a broken hand late in the season, Gold Glove infielder Cal McKim volunteered to switch positions despite having no experience as a backstop.

It was an easy choice, but the move was hardly easy.

No position on the diamond is as arduous or challenging; so much so that a catcher’s equipment is nicknamed the tools of ignorance because no smart player would ever play such a grueling position.

“I had never caught before," said McKim, a lifelong infielder. “I figured I’d give it a try and then if it didn’t work out we could always find something else later.”

He turned out to be the right guy.

With McKim catching, South Post 4 picked up steam down the stretch and marched all the way to the Legion state championship game before losing 5-4 to Dimond Post 21.

Still, it was impressive that a first-time catcher led his team to the title tilt.

“It was pretty tough but I got the hang of it,” he said. “By the end of it I found a pretty good routine.”

McKim learned immediately that playing catcher is more than just putting one finger down for a fastball and two fingers down for a curveball.

“Your kind of control the whole infield,” he said. “It was definitely an adjustment getting used to that and also the physical aspect of squatting for the entire game.”

During the early parts of his adjustment South pitching coach Tim Rumfelt called the pitches from the dugout. But now McKim calls his own games, including all the action at the Northwest Class A regional tournament in Oregon.

It’s no surprise McKim picks up everything so quickly – the kid got a 1910 on his SATs.

“Cal is very competitive and loves to win,” said his dad, Brad.

This fall he is going to the University of San Diego, where he plans to major in neurology and play baseball for the college’s club team with hopes of one day making the varsity team.

He will leave behind an Alaska legacy that saw him win a Legion state title as a sophomore and a high school state title as a senior.

Also a state champion doubles player in tennis, McKim knows a thing or two about camaraderie.

In fact, he believes it is the most important recipe to success.

“The team concept in baseball is pretty much bigger than anything,” he said. “Get along with your teammates but also work together. It plays a lot bigger role than most people give it credit for.”

In addition to his team accomplishments, McKim was also a four-time selection to the Legion Team of Excellence after hitting .420 with just one strikeout in 108 plate appearances.

Then again McKim has always been an all-star.

When his family moved from Texas to Alaska when he was 12 years old he was the No. 1 overall pick in his Little League. His team wasn’t very good, but McKim was impressive.

“We received a lot of nice comments from his coaches that year about Cal’s character and leadership,” said his dad, Brad.

It extends beyond the baseball field.

McKim graduated with a 3.9 GPA and he is a volunteer with the Big Brothers Program, mentoring a little buddy in elementary school for one hour every week.

“It turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” he said. “I got to know him really well and all the things he likes to do and his family and stuff. It was definitely one of the cooler things I’ve done.”