Thursday, April 27, 2006

McKay Christensen

A highly touted baseball and football prep star out of Fresno, California, McKay Andrew Christensen was dubbed “Which Way McKay” by the local media because no one knew which sport he would choose after he graduated from high school.[1]

In baseball, Christensen earned All-America honors as a senior from USA Today and Baseball America after hitting a robust .486 while pilfering 28 bases in as many attempts. He was selected by the California Angels with the sixth overall pick in the 1994 draft.[2]

In football, he was named to the Blue Chip Illustrated All-America team as a senior after reaching paydirt a whopping 44 times, two shy of the state single-season touchdown record.[3] Several of the top college football programs offered scholarships and Christensen eventually signed a letter of intent with BYU.

However, when the Angels waved $700,000 at Christensen, he signed. But instead of heading to the minor leagues, Christensen put his baseball career on hold. A devout Mormon, he embarked on a two-year mission to Japan.[4] This was not a surprise to the Angels as Christensen had informed all big league clubs of his intentions prior to the draft.[5]

In 1995, Christensen was traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a seven-player deal that brought pitcher Jim Abbott back to the Angels. A year later, Christensen returned to the United States and began his professional baseball career. He made his major league debut with the White Sox in 1999 and played briefly with the club in 2000 and part of 2001. Baseball America named Christensen the top defensive outfielder in the White Sox organization in 1999 and 2000.

Christensen was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas on July 13, 2001. He joined the big club a week later, and got off to a blazing start, collecting 10 hits in his first 14 at bats. “Obviously, no one can keep up that pace but I can definitely go in stretches like that,'' Christensen told reporters. [6] “That's how baseball is. You go in great stretches, you cool down for a bit and you jump back on again. I think it just requires the opportunity to do that.''[7] Predictably, Christensen cooled off by season’s end, but still wound up batting .327 in 28 games.

Thereafter, Christensen played for the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds organizations and except for a cameo appearance with the Mets in 2002, he would not return to the big leagues.

Prior to the 2004 season, the 28-year old outfielder announced his retirement from baseball. Christensen told reporters that he did not regret the decision he had made 10 years earlier. “I gained rewards far beyond anything I could ever accomplish on a baseball field on that mission’s trip,” said Christensen. “You touch lives. You impact their future. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.” [8]


[1] Mitchell, John N. Football at BYU Can’t Match Pull of Pro Baseball. USA Today; June 9, 1994.
[2] Bostro, Don. Baseball Isn’t Foremost in Christensen’s Life. The Morning Call (Allentown, PA); March 16, 2003.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Painter, Jill. Man On A Mission: Christensen Making the Most of His Chance. Daily News (Los Angeles, CA); July 29, 2001.
[7] Id.
[8] Bostro, Don. Baseball Isn’t Foremost in Christensen’s Life. The Morning Call (Allentown, PA); March 16, 2003.


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