Q&A with former MTSU major leaguer Michael McKenry

Former MTSU All-American catcher Michael McKenry is a studio anaylst for the Pittsburgh Pirates AT&T Network. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Former MTSU catcher and All-American Michael McKenry spent seven seasons in the big leagues as primarily a back-up catcher.

The seventh round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies played for them twice, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals briefly before suffering a knee injury.

In all -- counting the minor leagues -- he played in 11 different cities. McKenry played in 311 games, batted .240 and had 29 home runs and 103 RBIs.

After retiring in 2017, he was given the opportunity to be an analyst on the AT&T Network for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Murfreesboro Post Sports editor Monte Hale Jr. caught up with McKenry recently and had the following conversation:

Q: What have you been doing during the pandemic?

A: I've just tried to stay busy and make myself a handy man around the house. I tore my ACL and had surgery and have been rehabbing. I've done a lot of Zoom calls and Google play and try to stay in the fold and what's going on with baseball and keep baseball informative to some of the Pittsburgh Pirate fans who want to talk baseball and talk shop."

Q: You are an analyst for the Pittsburgh Pirates pregame and postgame show. What will be your role during the shortened season and how has the pandemic affected that?

A: "I do the pre- and postseason-game analysis for AT&T Sports Net and the plan was to do a little bit of the broadcast for the Pirates. Obviously with the season being cut pretty short I don't know if I'll do much of that. I feel like I've have had a ball and chain on me for the last three or four months. I got to go to spring training and got to watch a little baseball and it gave me the itch. When they shut it down it was heartbreaking. I was really looking forward to watching the young team in Pittsburgh. I wanted to see how they came together and how the created a new culture. But life hits and you've got to embrace it and move forward. "

Q: You obviously cultivated a lot of relationships playing with the Pirates. Is that how you got your current position on the AT&T Network Sports Net?

A: "I really went straight in to it. I've always tried to give back to any city I've been in, and I've lived in 11. Whether if was to speak at a church or speak at a youth group, I did it everywhere I played. Pittsburgh was the one city that embraced me and it mostly opened the door. I got hurt in '13 and the network asked me to come on because i couldn't travel with the team. It created a great opportunity when I retired to stay in the game. Everybody misses the game when they retire and to be able to stay in the game has been a blessing."

Q: A lot of people who have followed your career thought you would be a coach. Is that still in the equation?

A: "I think my future will be in coaching at some point. This opportunity gives me the opportunity to learn from 30 teams. I'm not necessarily tied to the Pirates there. I have ties to the (general manager) of the Cardinals and I have access to the manager of the Brewers. And I can I can start to learn from a group of individuals instead of just a collective culture just within the Pirates. I still work with kids. Worked with 13U travel team the other night. It's a huge passion. I love giving back and seeing the growth they have. I will never cut coaching out, but right now God is really calling me to grow as an individual and become a a leader who can one day can lead men."

Q: What are your thoughts about the upcoming MLB season?

A: "It's going to be like gasoline on a fire -- going to flame up real fast and fizzle out real fast. It's going to be very interesting. I see teams with more youth having the advantage. These guys, though, will be ready to go. The cool thing about the expedited season is everybody has a chance. If you look back at the Pirates the last couple of years, if they ended at the half-way point they were in line to be in the playoffs. If you can start off hot, and you know how baseball is when a team can run off 10 in a row, there are teams that you don't expect to make the playoffs that can end up in the playoffs. You can't afford a horrible start. I think teams like the Atlanta Braves, Oakland and Tampa Bay are teams to watch. They're young with great pitching and defense and can hit enough. They have that youth aspect about them that is going to be a big plus."

Q: Two new rule changes are interesting. What do you think of the universal designated hitter and also putting a runner at second base if the game is tied after nine innings?

A: "The universal DH I do like. You know, with a shortened season and spring training, it might cut down on pitchers getting hurt. It also gives guys who need at-bats a chance to get those at-bats. The extra innings rule I don't like it. I played in a couple of long inning games and they give you a lot of memories. If you're going to do something different, why not a home run derby, especially in a year when we don't have an All-Star game. Each team picks a guy and you go. I think it would be a lot of fun."

Q: Next year the Collective Bargaining Agreement runs out in baseball. How critical is it for the two sides to negotiate and get a deal done as soon as possible?

A: "Looking ahead, it's a critical year for baseball with the CBA running out in 2021. It's kind of scary to be honest. If you paid attention, there was a lot of tension between the owners MLPA about this season. It's going to be a fight to the death. I was an alternative rep for four years. Whether you keep up, no one can argue that the players have given more than the owners in the last 20 years. If I was eligible for the draft this year I wouldn't have been drafted because they only had five rounds. The players gave back 35 rounds and then the owners pulled back the prorated salaries. It was bad optics on both sides. There is going to be a lot of tension and playing the political game too much. If there is any delay, pushback or bad PR it will absolutely crush the fan base."

Q: What were you doing when you found out you were going to the big leagues?

A: Well, we finished up a day game in Colorado Springs. I get a call on my phone. Anytime it's an unknown number and you're in the minor leagues it's usually someone from the front office. I get an unknown and was like, 'oh man, what is this?' I knew I'd get called up in September but no one had been called up yet. My manager said, 'hey, you may want to start packing.' I was like, 'oh man, I'm being traded.' He told me to be in Denver the next day. I was one of the first guys on the field and went up and met the skipper and he said welcome. That's a really surreal feeling."

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