Tyler “T.J.” McKenzie first caught the eye of Program 15/New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series officials with his outstanding showing at one of the Grad Class Tournament events as a 16-year-old while playing with partner program US Elite.
That earned him an invite to last year’s inaugural International Week event in Sugar Land, Texas, where he earned valuable experience in facing three pitchers who would go on to be selected in the 2018 MLB Draft.
This year, with the event set for Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, he’ll be back, and is primed to show the development in his skills that could see him getting his own name called in the upcoming Draft.
“From that year to this year, it’s definitely getting bigger and stronger,” McKenzie told FutureStarsSeries.com
“I’ve been in the gym since then obviously, and I’ve been eating a lot more, so I got my weight up a little bit. Hitting-wise, my approach is a little bit better; little things like keeping my weight back. On the defensive-side, I’d say I’m a little bit quicker from last year, and also my arm strength has improved.”
With brother Triston well on his way to a lengthy big league career in the Cleveland Indians organization, T.J. has already had a good foundation to learn from a pro. However, he was still like a sponge at last year’s event in Sugar Land, soaking up as much knowledge as he could from the P15/NBBFSS staff, many of whom have significant experience at the big league level.
“I learned a lot, just being around ex-big leaguers and getting their take on things, especially with them having been around the game for so long.”
“Seeing some of the other talent (in 2017) — I think they said 14 kids got drafted out of the guys that went last year — and seeing how I stack up against them, I definitely learned a lot. (For this event), I want to take everything I learned from the big leaguers. We talked about a lot — from hitting, to fielding and everything like that — and I want to apply that to my game now. I spoke to all of them pretty evenly just trying to get a take from everybody.”
McKenzie’s take on this year’s event?
“I’m super excited,” he said. “I’ve been getting ready these past few days, getting some swings and taking ground balls and just getting ready. I’ve been seeing the Instagram posts from the Future Stars Series, and I’m just ecstatic for it.”