Fresh off a victorious double-header in Tampa, Marathon High junior Matt McKeon, 17, is a rising star on the South Florida prep diamond.
Coach Luis Leal escorted the Dolphins to his alma mater, The University of Tampa, for a three-game Spring Break series against Tampa Prep, Indian Rocks Academy and Seffner Christian Academy.
All eyes were on McKeon after he led the Dolphins to a 6-3 win over defending Class 2-A state champion Westminster Christian.
On the diamond since kindergarten and T-ball days, McKeon has always been an athlete. His high school sports career has included time on the football field as well, but in his junior year, McKeon decided his focus would remain on baseball.
“He’s just not aggressive enough for football,” his mother, Karen McKeon, laughed.
In fact, baseball seems to be in his blood.
Karen’s father was a pitcher on the minor league team for the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns.
“When he was 15, he used to do batting practice for Chicago Cubs,” she explained.
Karen and her husband, Steve, were baseball enthusiasts long before they started a family. The pair made vacation plans to hit national stadiums across the country. This summer, they’ll make their way around the state with their youngest son, Kevin, 13, and Matt’s teammate Justin Kornetti to catch minor league games and visit schools in Ocala, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville.
“I’m not sure where I’ll go for college, but it’ll definitely be somewhere in Florida,” McKeon told The Marathon Weekly.
Karen said he’s mentioned possible future careers such as orthopedic surgery or even possibly dentistry, which doesn’t seem too far off the mark for the kid who claims his favorite classroom subject is Chemistry. His least favorite?
“English!” he affirmed.
Not yet dead set on a profession, McKeon said he’s also looking into studying sports medicine.
With only three starting seniors on the 2010 squad, Coach Luis Leal is leading a team loaded with underclassmen. But since these guys have grown up together in a small community like Marathon, maintaining good team chemistry is not an issue.
As head coach of the program for the past five years, Leal said he’s seen McKeon mature quite a bit as a player.
“In the past, he didn’t take situations on the field too seriously. He was just out there going through the motions and having fun,” the coach said of one of his starting pitchers. “Now that he’s at the Varsity level, he realizes things are a little more serious.”
McKeon admitted he’s learned a few important lessons under Leal’s tutelage as well.
“He’s taught me to get ahead in the count, and attack the batters,” he said casually. “Oh, and that you can’t be afraid of anyone.”
Junior Dolphin pitcher Matt McKeon
Junior Dolphin pitcher Matt McKeon began turning heads when he led his team to a 6-3 victory over defending Class 2-A State Champs Westminster Christian.
Matt and his dad
McKeon and his father, Steven, ran together in the Schooner Wharf 5K in Key West last summer. The pair has already reserved two spots in this month’s 7 Mile Bridge Run.