Blue Jays Draft TCC’s McKnight in 12th Round
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Tears began to well up in D.J. McKnight’s eyes the moment he got the phone call letting him know that he was selected by Toronto in the 12th round of the major league baseball draft.
“I shed a few tears,” said McKnight 24 hours after being selected Wednesday afternoon. “I was so excited. Ever since I could walk, I would walk around with a (plastic) baseball bat. It was all I’ve ever dreamed of.”
McKnight played two seasons at Tallahassee Community College, completing his sophomore year as an All-Panhandle Conference selection. He will forego a scholarship opportunity at Valdosta State College for a chance to live his dream.
He reports to the Blue Jays’ rookie short season in Dunedin on Saturday and is expected to sign a contract Sunday morning.
McKnight is the highest draft pick from TCC since 2004, when AJ Johnson was taken in the sixth round by Pittsburgh. TCC currently has two outfielders from its 2005 team playing in the major league — Lorenzo Cain with Royals and Michael Saunders of the Blue Jays. Cain played in the 2014 World Series.
Last season McKnight batted .322, leading the Eagle with 16 doubles and 33 runs scored. He also drove in 32 runs, including a homer, in 46 games.
Many times during his two seasons as an Eagle, McKnight found himself in clutch situations. He often delivered and was responsible for at least three walk-off wins this past season.
“He never got fluster or overwhelmed by any situation,” said coach Mike McLeod. “He just went out and competed. I believe that if he ever gets the opportunity that the big stage (in the major leagues) will not bother him at all. He will do just fine.
“He’s got that ‘it’ that coaches talk about. He gets up there and have a quality at-bat every time. He was always a happy guy and his demeanor never changed.”
Handling pressure was something that he learned early, especially when he played football, McKnight said.
“It’s just a mindset. You want to be that guy when the game is on the line,” he said. “You want to come through for your team to a win. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
Early on in his career at Madison High School, McKnight’s future seemed to be in football. By his junior year, he took over as starting quarterback.
But as good as he was under center, he was even better as a baseball player. McLeod was sold on him after seeing McKnight play in an Arizona Diamond Backs summer camp before his senior season.
“The TCC experience helped me take my game up a notch,” McKnight said. “I’m really appreciative of that.”