Jake McKenzie first heard his coaches mention the outrageous idea in the fall. Could he really play all nine positions — one per inning — in a regulation game for the University of Texas?
He figured they were joking until April 15, after the team returned to Austin following weekend series against rival Oklahoma. He was called into the office of head coach David Pierce, who wanted to reward McKenzie for his versatility by giving him a rare opportunity.
“I never expected it to actually happen,” said McKenzie, a Preston Hollow native. “It was a huge honor.”
Two days later, when the Longhorns hosted UT Rio Grande Valley, McKenzie started at catcher, the only position he had never played in college. He rotated around the diamond each inning after that, until the plan hit a snag.
Because the Longhorns had built such a big lead, the game would likely be shortened to seven innings instead of the usual nine. So McKenzie took care of all three outfield spots in the sixth inning, and closed out the game on the pitcher’s mound. He became the first UT player ever to accomplish the feat.
“I’ve always kind of been that guy,” said McKenzie, who has been known as a utility infielder and occasional relief pitcher throughout his four years in Austin.
He was recruited as a pitcher out of W.T. White, where he once threw a no-hitter in which he tallied 17 strikeouts against Richardson. In high school, McKenzie actually started as a catcher until shortstop became his primary non-pitching position during his junior year in 2013.
He has family in the Austin area, which made him a UT fan. So his dream school didn’t even involve changing colors or mascots from WTW.
“I’ve wanted to be a Longhorn since I was born,” he said. “I’ve always grown up going to Texas games.”
McKenzie graduated in May with a degree in petroleum engineering, and has a job lined up this summer in San Antonio. But before his baseball career ends, he hopes to continue his best season at UT with an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s been a lot of fun with the new guys on the roster,” McKenzie said. “We’d like to finish strong and make a run.”