Exactly one month to the day after he was selected by the Cincinnati Reds with the 17th overall selection in the 2021 MLB Draft, Matt McLain arrived on a full-season field. His first impression was a strong one.
McLain went 4-for-5 with a homer and a double, driving in five runs and scoring twice as High-A Dayton rolled by Lansing, 12-4, on Wednesday afternoon.
The UCLA product notched his four hits in his first four trips to the plate for the Dragons, starting with a single to left in the first inning and following that with a two-run homer to left in the third. After another single to left in the fifth, the shortstop capped his day with a bases-clearing, three-run double to center as part of Dayton’s six-run sixth to take control of the game.
“I came in just ready to go,” McLain said. “I went out there, hit in the cages before the game and I was just myself before the game, getting ready to go up there looking for a good pitch to hit, just keep doing that. No matter what happens, baseball is way up and down, but you’ve got to stay level-headed through the good and the bad. I was just trying to do that today, and it worked a little bit.”
McLain has had a busy last month. After being picked by the Reds and signing his first pro contract on July 26, he spent “about two weeks” in a camp for Cincinnati’s drafted players in Arizona.
“It’s been long and short at the same time, but it’s been a lot of fun; new experiences, getting to meet new people, all the Draft guys,” he said. “All the people in the Reds organization have been great, welcoming me and the other guys into the organization and just trying to get us better.”
A two-game stint in the Arizona Complex League was all the Reds needed from McLain to see he was ready for an advanced assignment. McLain went 3-for-7 with two doubles and a triple for his ACL squad.
“[The promotion] was just based off how I was progressing,” he said. “The Draft was pushed back kind of far, so I was in playing shape, but I wasn’t in baseball shape, seeing pitches, stuff like that because I wasn’t able to get on the field every day during that time. It was more like getting in there, getting acclimated into baseball shape as fast as you could and then see where things go from there.”
McLain’s debut for Dayton came alongside another 2021 Draftee. Outfielder Jack Rogers, Cincinnati’s ninth-round pick, was promoted from the ACL along with McLain and went 1-for-5 with a triple on Wednesday.
“It was cool having someone going through the same thing as you,” McLain said. “A lot of these guys, it’s their first year here too, but they’ve been here the whole season. They’re all really good guys, really welcoming. Right when we walked in the clubhouse, people were introducing themselves.
“It’s a change of pace out here. It’s not as hot as Arizona which is good. It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”
McLain comprised half the hit total of Dayton’s potent top third of the lineup along with fifth-ranked Reds prospect Michael Siani and Cincinnati’s No. 11 Ivan Johnson. The trio combined to go 8-for-14 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBIs. Being part of such a performance in a real Minor League atmosphere was a bonus for McLain.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “Especially here in Lansing, the field is really cool, the apartments [beyond] center field. It’s just a cool atmosphere, good to be in a ballpark.”
It was a whirlwind month, but one of Cincinnati’s most promising young prospects is thrilled to be back focused on the game he loves after the Draft process.
“It’s nice to be able to go play again and not worry about any of that stuff, just have fun playing baseball,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I like to do.”