ONU's McLain gets off to good start on diamond
Tanner McLain's good start this season has its roots in Cincinnati.
Last summer, McLain – a junior shortstop for Olivet Nazarene University – played for the Cincinnati Spikes, a college-league team. He told the Kankakee Times that playing for the Spikes helped develop his game and prepare him for this season with the Tigers.
The proof of his improvement is in his numbers. Through March 21, according to ONU's website, McLain was batting .353 – more than 100 points higher than his average last season. He also earned College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Player of the Week honors, which was announced in a March 16 report.
In a seven-game stretch during the Tigers' spring trip through the South, McLain batted .680 with a 1.200 slugging percentage. He had 17 hits, with eight going for extra bases.
A relaxed atmosphere also has helped McLain this season, he said.
“We call our dugout the Goon Squad because we like to goof around and have fun together,” he said in an email interview. “This has helped my mindset to approach the game to have fun and never take it too serious.”
That chemistry among teammates contributes to the game's bond that McLain said is a huge draw to the game for him.
“Through the years of baseball, I have made friendships and met guys I consider my brothers for life,” McLain said. “Wins and losses come and go, but brotherhood lasts forever.”
McLain and the game got together courtesy of his father. McLain said he would wait for his dad to get home from work – having everything ready and waiting – and then the two of them would go to the park and play baseball. His father also coached him from his early days in T-ball to high school.
“My passion for baseball came from my dad's love for the game,” McLain said. “We shared a bond through baseball that nothing could ever break. We would watch baseball on television most nights, which gave me drive to play the game.”
After becoming an All-State pick at Rantoul (Illinois) High School, McLain came to ONU, a school he committed to while a junior in high school. He said the mental game has improved for him as well at ONU.
“As a freshman, I was simply looking to find a spot and role on the team. I was not as focused on what I could bring to the team,” McLain said. “Over the last couple years, I have worked to become a leader on our team. I work to buy into our program and build my teammates up with me. Every day, I look for ways to develop my game from a teammate or coach.”