Photo by Aaron Meliza
Caption: SCC pitcher Payton Mackin winds down after practice
By Calvin Li
When Payton Mackin was eight and up at bat in a baseball game, he hit a line right back at the pitcher. The ball hit the pitcher in the face and broke his jaw. Although Mackin was a guaranteed safe to first base, he ran to the mound to check if the pitcher was ok.
Today, Mackin is the one standing tall on the mound. Mackin has become the Phins’ leading pitcher with the most wins and strikeouts, and held a phenomenal record of .7 in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) before the last three weekends of the season, surpassing the team goal of 1.2.
In baseball, WHIP represents the average number of walks and hits a pitcher allows per inning – it illustrates a pitcher's effectiveness against batters. In Major League Baseball, a WHIP of 1.00 or lower throughout the course of a season will often rank among the league leaders, which makes Mackin performance truly remarkable.
Mackin attributes his early start in baseball to his father.
“He put a bat in my hand when I could walk.” Mackin said with a laugh. Mackin came from a family where his father and older brother were really into baseball. At the age of five, he was put in coach-pitch, a game where players under nine-years old bat a baseball that is safely pitched to them by their own coach.
Mackin's passion for baseball blossomed when he got to travel with a select team to Puerto Rico. “That’s when it kind of hit me like, ‘wow I actually could do something with this.’”
He said the trip was awesome, since the team got police escorts everywhere, and he was impressed by the scale of it.
“It was like the Little League World Series here,” he said. “It’s called the Pee Wee Reese World Series over there in Puerto Rico so it was on TV there. It was a big deal for them, (so) it was awesome to be a part of.”
Mackin was on the same select team until he turned 18, and it was the coach in his select team who convinced him to become a pitcher.
“He was like ‘I really want you to focus on pitching. I really think you can get somewhere especially because you are a lefty, and lefty can go pretty far in baseball – pitching-wise.’”
Mackin said that although trip to Puerto Rico was definitely one of the most memorable moments in his career, he considers coming to SCC his biggest achievement. This is because he is able to step up from being a high school athlete, become a collegiate athlete, and keep climbing from there.
“I chose SCC because the coach last year, Travis Fox,” he said. “He told me to come over for a visit, and then he ended up coming over to Spokane and seeing me at one of my practices for high school, and he’s like ‘hey, I really want you to come out and play for me...I just want to give you and your parents the opportunities to see you at the next level.”
Mackin was contacted by both the Yakima Valley Community College and Columbia Basin College, but what encouraged him to come to SCC was the fact that he wanted to play for somebody he knew personally and where he didn’t have to create a whole new player profile for the coaches.
Mackin’s remarkable statistics speak for his success. He said his key is to put all his trust and confidence into his pitches and himself. He also credits his success to head coach Dave Snell.
“He’s really been helping me a lot this year,” Mackin said. “He is the one that relays it into the catcher to call the pitch, so it’s like I just have to know that he has been around the game a lot longer and he knows what to look for, and so that’s where the trust comes in. Trust in that he knows what pitch is best at there.”
Coach Snell spoke highly of Mackin. “He’s got that attitude and chip on his shoulders,” he said. “He just wants to be the best out there. He believes it.”
Yet, Coach Snell said Mackin sometimes wanted to do too much. “He gets into a little bit of trouble that way because he overthrows... But when he is relaxed and flowing better, that’s when he’s doing well.”
This is Mackin’s second year in SCC and he said he would stay at SCC for one more year if he got his redshirt year back – a delay of an athlete's participation in order to lengthen his or her period of eligibility – so he could come back next year and have more innings under his belt, which helps him to be more likely to get into a Division I school. If not, he said he’d consider transferring into another college like Bellevue or Presentation College, both of which are baseball powerhouses.
“I’m not done with it,” he said. “I love it too much to be done with it.”