Kevin McReynolds (1959–)
Kevin McReynolds, who grew up in Sherwood (Pulaski County), became a collegiate all-star baseball player at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in the 1970s and spent twelve high-achieving seasons in the major leagues. In a career spent mostly with the San Diego Padres and New York Mets in the National League, but also two years with the Kansas City Royals in the American League, McReynolds was a solid hitter but especially excelled as a defensive outfielder and as a canny base runner. For a few years, he held the major-league record for bases stolen in a season without a putout.
Walter Kevin McReynolds was born on October 16, 1959, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Raymond McReynolds and Kathryn Bryant McReynolds. Along with a sister and two brothers, he was reared in Sherwood, a suburban community on the eastern perimeter of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and attended Sylvan Hills schools.
As a senior in 1978, he led Sylvan Hills High School to the Class AAA state baseball championship by hitting .638, including fifteen home runs, and drove in sixty runs in the first twenty-five games. He was named the Arkansas high school baseball player of the year. The Milwaukee Brewers of the American League drafted him, but he chose to play baseball at UA instead of joining a Brewers farm team.
At UA, he was an instant star. As a freshman, he had a .282 batting average, hit eight home runs, and batted in thirty-seven runs. For the first time, the Razorbacks went to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, where they finished second. McReynolds averaged .566 during the series, with two home runs, two doubles, and five runs batted in (RBIs). His numbers improved every year. As a junior in 1980, he won the Southwest Conference’s triple crown, leading the league with seventeen home runs, fifty-seven RBIs, and a batting average of .386.
The San Diego Padres chose McReynolds as the sixth overall pick in the 1981 professional draft. He was forced to sit out the 1981 season due to a leg ligament injury. The two following years, McReynolds played for the Class A-Advanced Reno Padres in Nevada, the AA Amarillo Gold Sox in Texas, and the AAA Las Vegas Stars in Nevada. In 1983 at Las Vegas, he was named the most valuable player in the Pacific Coast League. He was called up to San Diego, and in his first game, against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 2, he hit a home run in his fourth at-bat. He batted .221 in the waning weeks of the 1983 season.
In his first full season with the Padres in 1984, the team reached the World Series for the first time. McReynolds shared the team lead in home runs with twenty. During the National League championship series, McReynolds had a .300 batting average until he broke a wrist in the fourth game trying to break up a double play, which ended his season. The Padres won the next game and went to the World Series, where they lost to the Detroit Tigers.
San Diego traded him to the New York Mets in December 1986 as he was reaching his peak, which angered him at the time but for which he was later grateful. Despite the intense press coverage in New York and an exacting and temperamental fan base at Shea Stadium, the New York years were his most enjoyable and memorable. For most of his Mets career, he shared the outfield and stardom with Darryl Strawberry, a capricious star who, like McReynolds, was also a stellar fielder and power hitter. In 1989, McReynolds entered the record books by becoming the 220th player since the major leagues were formed in 1876 to “hit for the cycle”—hitting a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game.
The Mets traded McReynolds in December 1991 to the Kansas City Royals, where he spent two seasons. The Royals traded him back to the Mets in 1994, and he spent his last season there. It had been a highly productive career, from the standpoint of his offensive production of hits, runs, and stolen bases (his career batting average was .265 with 211 home runs and 807 RBIs) but also financially. McReynolds rose to prominence as the major leagues were beginning to pay good players seven-figure salaries. He would earn almost $20 million in the major leagues.
Although outfielders, unlike infielders and catchers, were rarely recognized for their defensive skills, McReynolds excelled. He had quick reflexes, a powerful and uncannily accurate throwing arm, and deceptive speed. Every year, he was among the major-league leaders among outfielders in putouts and double plays, nailing runners from third base by firing a baseball from the left-field fence precisely to the right side of home plate.
McReynolds retired back to his roots, building a sports complex at Sylvan Hills High School. He operated a duck-hunting club in southeastern Arkansas for thirty years before selling it. With his wife, Jacqueline Dawn Bradley McReynolds, and two daughters, he built a home in western Little Rock.
For additional information:
“Kevin McReynolds.” BaseballReference.com. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mcreyke01.shtml (accessed April 22, 2022).
Murphy, Tom. “Best Hogs in Pro baseball No. 4: McReynolds Made the Game Look Effortless.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 7, 2020.
Murray, Jim. “Kevin McReynolds: The Silent Met, Just May Be the Best Met of Them All.” Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1988.
Little Rock, Arkansas
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