ATHERTON — As an assistant college baseball coach, Jake McKinley understands the required time-commitment — explaining why at 6 a.m. one recent morning he was working at his office at Menlo College.
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McKinley, recently hired as the new head coach of the Oaks’ baseball program, is thinking ahead — fundraising, fall ball, strategy — well before next spring’s first pitch.
In Menlo, McKinley takes over an NAIA program brimming with regular season success. His objective is to carry that into the postseason and win a national championship.
“This is the place to win a national championship, I don’t think that’s a far-fetched statement,” McKinley said. “It’s the reason I took the job. There’s great things in place now — the talent’s good — and the only area in need of rebuilding is in terms of the culture.”
McKinley views fundraising as critical — the difference between fast food or a good meal and having your own bed on road trips. While he’s given an operating budget, the former Union Mine pitcher wants to raise an additional $40,000.
“My goal is to treat the guys as well as possible. It’s so important for players to know you’re making an effort to maximize their student/athlete experience,” McKinley said.
After concluding his playing career for Bethany College in Scotts Valley, McKinley has steadily risen up the coaching ranks with stops at Bethany, Campbellsville University (Kentucky), West Valley College (Saratoga) and most recently, Sacramento State where he served as a volunteer assistant and Director of Baseball Operations before becoming an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator. His bio on the Menlo College Website has testimonials from coaches he’s previously worked with.
“It was a lot of traveling and watching baseball but it prepared me to be a good coach. Now I know what I want in a player. Instead of doubt I trust my instincts,” McKinley said about recruiting.
So will he have his eye on El Dorado County talent?
“Absolutely, the first thing I did after taking this job was talk to the area coaches, McKinley said. “The guys have been so good to me — Rusty (McDonald) at El Dorado and Brett (Robinson) at Union Mine — if a guy is the right fit I’d lose sleep if I didn’t get them. My focus will be Sacramento to Reno with my specialty El Dorado County.”
Prior to Menlo, McKinley’s goal was a Division I head coaching position but he realized those plumb spots went to “other head coaches,” something McKinley’s resumé lacked.
Now it doesn’t.
“Being a head coach just puts you in better position.”
So do national championships.