Wylie grad MacKenzie Mueller finished another leg of a long journey that he has been on since he was a little boy.
He completed his first season in Minor League Baseball on the road to hopefully one day making it to the majors.
This first season playing with the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida League had a lot of positives, Mueller said.
“I was fortunate to stay healthy the entire year,” he said. “That was the biggest positive from the season. I have been injury prone before, so that was a big thing for me.”
Mueller played 95 games, starting all but a few of them. In 317 at bats, he batted .215 with 68 hits, five homeruns and 38 runs brought in. He also scored 44 runs and had 15 stolen bases. But he said he is not really concerned about the stats.
“The biggest take away is that I learned a lot about myself, who I am as a player and was able to build and grow as a person and a player,” he said. “It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t exactly what I expected or wanted out of a season.”
Mueller graduated from Wylie in 2016 and played college ball at Rice, Cisco and Baylor before signing with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020. Unfortunately COVID caused Major League Baseball to cancel its minor league program for that year.
Mueller spent the extra time training in San Antonio and then went to spring training in April 2021. He was assigned to Toronto’s team in the Florida League and started his career as a professional baseball player.
“It’s obviously a little bit of a cultural shock,” he said. “It was a little tough to start out with. You don’t know what to expect. But once the season starts, it’s just baseball.”
He said the experience was interesting.
“Part of it was exactly what I expected,” he said. “It’s just baseball. It’s a little bit better baseball. It’s a different level. But I didn’t expect how much of a toll the season would take on my body. I played in 95 games this year, which is twice as many as I’ve ever played. It takes a toll on your body and your mind.”
Mueller stayed in the Florida League, so he didn’t experience some of the travel grinds that other minor leagues have. The longest bus ride was about three hours and the longest road trip was
12 days. Florida had its pros and cons, he said.
“It’s very hot,” he said. “It’s very humid. It’s very sticky. Everything about that is tough, but at the same time it’s nice weather. It’s close to the beach. We would find stuff to do on our days off to take a break.”
Now that the season is over, Mueller is back in San Antonio, where he lives with his fiancée Heather Donecker, who graduated from Wylie in 2017. He works and trains at Dynamic Sports Training.
“It’s a one-stop shop for me to have a job and a place for me to train,” he said. “They work with me really well. It’s a great environment. I get to train with other pro guys, which is a great opportunity to understand the game a little bit better from other people’s perspective.”
Mueller said now that he has his first full season behind him, he has a much better idea of what he needs to do to improve as a ball player.
“For me it’s making contact more consistently and being able to use the power tool that I have and being able to use that more often and being a more well-rounded hitter at the plate,” he said. “We are making a couple of swing adjustments and things like that.”
He said he felt like he helped his team the most during his first season with his great play in the outfield.
“I became more of a defensive first outfielder,” he said. “Playing elite right field was kind of my niche, the thing that I was the best at. There are a couple of defensive things that I would personally like to work on. There’s always room for improvement.”
When Spring Training rolls around in 2022, he is hoping to move up from the Florida League, although he said he will likely start there. He felt like it was the best place for him during his first season.
“It was the right place for me to work on what I needed to work on,” he said. “It was the right place for me to be. Obviously you would like to move forward. That’s the point of minor league baseball is to move up.
“Obviously the ultimate goal is to make it to the Big Leagues,” he said. “The time table to me doesn’t matter. The ultimate long-term goal for me is how good at baseball can I be. If I don’t make it to the Big Leagues, I can live with it as long as I know that I am as good at baseball as I can possibly be.”
Mueller said sometimes he has to remind himself that he is a professional baseball player.
“My whole childhood, this has been the dream,” he said. “It’s easy to get lost. When you are in the middle of it, you forget how hard the road was to get where you are today. You kind of forget that this is a really special opportunity.
“It’s just a long, long road, a long journey,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.”
By Candy Reagan