McKinney puts big stamp on Senator lineup

By Jamie Combs

   Just a quick glance at the stat sheet tells you that Garth McKinney is feeling more comfortable with a bat in his hands than Hugh Hefner in a pair of silk pajamas.
   The former Happy Valley High standout is putting up mighty big numbers as a sophomore player for the Walters State Community College baseball team.
   "I'm feeling real comfortable at the plate," McKinney said. "I'm seeing the ball real well right now. Depending on the situation, I do what I can to help the team."
   His help obviously means a lot to the nationally-ranked Senators (No. 4 in preseason), whose season record currently stands at 20-2.
   Hitting .422 -- 27 hits in 64 at-bats -- with a .953 slugging percentage, McKinney has accounted for 27 runs, 37 RBIs, nine doubles, seven home runs, two triples and 17 walks.
   After reading those figures, adjectives such as "astounding" and "superb" should easily come to mind.
   "I've been working real hard on everything about my hitting," McKinney said. "I've been staying in the (batting) cage. My roommate is always with me. Whenever I want to put in extra work, he'll help me out. If he wants to work extra, I'll help him.
   "I've got good coaches who help me out on the little things they see."
   While McKinney has done a terrific job showcasing his offensive prowess, his defensive skills in the Senator outfield are still waiting for a thorough workout.
   He said the Walters State pitching staff is forcing an abundance of infield grounders.
   "With the pitching we've had this year, I've not had to worry about fielding too much," McKinney said.
   Being on a dominant team definitely has its advantages.
   Asked how much he is enjoying the Senators' success, McKinney responded: "That's unexplainable. The team has really come together. Our pitching and defense are doing real well, and we're just hitting the ball. Our success is just awesome. I'm really enjoying it."
   Of course, things could have turned out differently for McKinney. Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 29th round of last year's Major League draft, he considered the option of going pro with one season of college competition under his belt.
   With the opportunity to move on, McKinney elected to return to Walters State and work on points of his game like shortening his swing and using his power a little bit better.
   That decision is proving to be a sound investment.
   "I love it here at Walters State," McKinney said. "I'm really glad I made the decision to come back this year."
   While one former Carter County player is flourishing for Walters State on the diamond, another has completed a solid career in women's basketball at the two-year school.
   Ex-Hampton High star Cyndie Troutman followed up a promising freshman season with a good sophomore campaign, averaging 8.7 points per game as part of a very balanced Walters State attack.
   Troutman, who posted a dozen double-digit scoring performances -- including three in her last four games -- and averaged 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 21 minutes a game during the 2001-2002 season, plans to continue her college playing days.
   As to where Troutman will play, she is undecided at this point.
   Congratulations to Charles McConnell and Jim Cradic for their inductions to the TSSAA Hall of Fame this past Saturday in Murfreesboro.
   An outstanding football and basketball official in the Johnson City area for 37 years, McConnell has served the last five years as a basketball supervisor for the Tri-Cities Association, continuing his work in aiding younger officials.
   Cradic, an accomplished football, basketball, softball and baseball official for over 30 years in the Kingsport area, remains involved with the TSSAA officiating program as an assigning officer and supervisor in both football and basketball.