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BSN Exclusive: How Ryan McMahon went from struggling prospect to member of the Rockies core

Drew Creasman Avatar
August 30, 2019

DENVER – Baseball games and baseball careers are defined by important moments.

Big moments in big games on the biggest stages are immortalized and retold over and over again until legend becomes myth: a strikeout or home run or double in the gap that punctuates a game in October, a performance that breaks a record, athleticism that makes even the opposing fans stand on their feet and applaud in appreciation.

However, without the “firsts” none of the rest could ever be possible.

There’s the first time a ballplayer becomes a pro via the draft or international free agency. There’s the first game in the minors and the first promotion to the next level.

Then there’s the MLB debut. The first hit. The first homer. The first win.

And then all that goes away and you have your first slump and, for most players, the first time you get sent back to the minors to work on your game.

At that stage, you’ve been in MLB, but you aren’t yet an established Major Leaguer.

In the last two months, despite all the chaos raging around him, Ryan McMahon has taken that next step.

It’s not as obvious a step as the others that come with absolute markers for which you are typically given a ceremonial baseball or some other kind of memento. It’s a subtle occurrence that marks your ascension into a part of a “core” that a Major League team intends to build around.

It comes with no pomp and circumstance; it can even sneak up on you. You don’t realize you’ve established yourself until you look back weeks, months, maybe even a year later and see all the twists and turns that this journey has taken you on.

It isn’t any one swing of the bat or play in the field that has turned McMahon into one of the centerpieces of the Colorado Rockies, just the plain fact that he has arguably been their best player since the All-Star break.

Hitting .283/.371/.527 with 11 home runs and a team-leading 32 RBI over the last 42 games, he’s also emerged as one of the best defenders in the National League at second base.

This time a year ago, he was struggling to find consistency at the plate, had no chance against well-located fastballs up and/or in, and couldn’t break through out of a bench role. Now, he looks like an integral part of this team’s immediate and long-term future with the potential to become one of the faces of the franchise.

“He’s shown what he’s capable of. He can be a be really special player on both sides of the ball,” says teammate Trevor Story, who knows a little something about being a two-way player.

“The quality of his ABs is really good. It’s cool to see because he’s one of the hardest workers in here. He’s my little brother. He has the work ethic. He brings the energy. It’s cool to see him succeed.”

McMahon reciprocates those brotherly feelings, saying he has tried to learn everything he can from the prodigious pair on the left side of the Rockies infield. “They just set the tone,” he told BSN Denver regarding Story and Nolan Arenado. “They set the standard and I’m just trying to keep up.”

Story appreciated the sentiment, saying, “I learned from ‘Nado, and it’s like that trickle-down effect, like you said. We take pride in that. That’s been great.”

It hasn’t always been easy. Remember, McMahon played third base predominantly in the minors and was only approached about the notion of playing second base going into Spring Training of 2018. He’s still been needed at first and third base, giving him barely more than a full season of experience at the keystone position.

Rockies fans are hyper-aware that he’s been taxed with filling some big shoes by stepping into the spot vacated by DJ LeMahieu, who is playing pretty well for some team called the New York Yankees, as you might have heard.

Story admits there was an adjustment period for the double play duo, but that the awkwardness is long behind them.

“It was kind of tough earlier when we were trying to turn stuff but now it’s a lot easier to be in the rhythm with him,” he says of the partnership with McMahon. “We know what we like and we’re always communicating the ebbs and flows when we’re out there. That comes from our pregame work and game reps. But yeah, I’m feeling really in sync with him.”

Just to the left of them at the hot corner is simply the best infielder in the game. Winner of six consecutive Gold Gloves, it’s the knowledge that the attitude McMahon exhibits of trying to soak up as much information and advice as possible that Arenado appreciates.

“It means a lot,” he says. “You know that the goal is to just be the best he can and I’m glad he’s feeding off us because there are people that sometimes just stay stuck in their ways and you know, Mac is obviously willing to learn and get better and I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

The last month for McMahon has been the natural result of all the time spent in the cages, workout room, and watching film. Well, that and his extraordinary natural athleticism and cerebral yet fun-loving disposition.

“He’s just growing up to be really good baseball player. The only way you can win this game is by experience. I remember my first year I had my struggles and my second year I had my struggles and I mean every you’re gonna have struggles but you know, those young, inexperienced struggles start to go away. (WHO SAID THIS?)

This is the process that has taken McMahon from the club’s second pick all the way back in the 2013 draft, to intriguing prospect, to a top prospect, to a major leaguer.

Now, he’s a part of the core.

And there is still one more gigantic leap of a step left in front of him.

“He’s a good baseball player, man, that’s just what he is,” says Arenado. “He’s growing up. And he has a chance to be a star in this game.”

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