McKinney ‘Taylor’ made for baseball | News, Sports, Jobs | #teacher | #children | #kids

Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Troy Banning: Webster City assistant Taylor McKinney (right) greets Lynx player Zach Dyvig before a game earlier this season.

WEBSTER CITY — Taylor McKinney thought it was a joke when, back in 2020, she received a text from Webster City head baseball coach Adison Kehoe asking her if she would be interested in joining his coaching staff.

She was a recent high school graduate. She was a multiple-time all-conference softball player who very rarely got to watch baseball games because they occurred at the same time as her own games.

And let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room — she’s a she.

“There’s no way, he’s just messing with me, that’s what I thought at first,” McKinney said about her first series of text exchanges with Kehoe. “So I jokingly responded back, yeah, let’s do it. I’m in. He quickly responded that he was serious and I told him that if you truly want me on that side, I will.”

Through a series of texts, that’s how McKinney, a 2020 WCHS graduate, currently became one of the state’s few — and quite possibly only — female baseball coaches at the high school level.

Just how many female baseball coaches are there in Iowa right now? Iowa High School Athletic Association Communications Director Chris Cuellar says no specific information is kept on the gender of coaches throughout the state. However, he says it’s quite rare for a female to occupy a spot in the baseball dugout.

McKinney began her duties with the WCHS baseball program as the seventh grade coach last summer, and she directed that team to a 14-4 record. She also served as a volunteer assistant with the junior varsity and varsity programs, and as Kehoe jokingly pointed out, it was good to have someone on his staff with longer hair than his own.

But when 2021 lead assistant Jordan Moen opted to resign, that left a position on Kehoe’s high school staff unoccupied. He says it was a no-brainer; the job was McKinney’s if she wanted it.

“I saw zero cons in this at all,” Kehoe said. “When she finally said yes, it was kind of a dream come true a little bit. The accolades that she had on the ball diamond, you don’t have the statistics she had and the resume she had without knowing the game, whether the ball is bigger or smaller.”

It’s true, McKinney was a five-year starter on the softball diamond for WCHS, and one of the finest defensive shortstops the program has ever possessed. She could have gone on to play college softball had her first love not been basketball. She practically owns the Lynx girls’ basketball 5-on-5 record book — she’s the program’s all-time points leader, all-time 3-point leader, and so many more — and she went on to play at Iowa Central Community College for two years.

McKinney will head to Iowa State University this fall to continue her pursuit of an education degree. Her goal has always been to be a teacher and coach, and she feels fortunate that she was given the chance to get a head start with the Lynx baseball program.

She knows she might draw some looks from the opposing teams when she’s standing in the first base coach’s box, but she doesn’t mind. She has a job to do, and she’s done it quite well according to Kehoe.

“I’m sure I get tons of looks, but it never bothers me,” she said. “I’m here to coach, I’m here to get the job done, and if they have a problem with it they can. I knew the boys wouldn’t have an issue with it and they would respect me just as much as any other coach.”

She agrees with Kehoe about the similarities between baseball and softball too. The balls and fields may be different sizes, but the games hold many of the same characteristics.

“I know the game and there are a lot of the same techniques in softball and baseball, so I knew I wouldn’t have any issues with it,” she said. “Being here (at WCHS) definitely helps quite a bit too. I’m just excited to even have this opportunity. You don’t expect this at 20 years old and being a female, but I love it. I really do.”

Initially, one of the toughest people to sell on the idea of her coaching baseball was her own brother, Ty, the starting shortstop on the Lynx baseball team. He’s been coached by his dad, Marty, in both football and basketball throughout his high school career, so the thought of being coached by his sister didn’t sound appealing.

“I was always finding the downside of her being a coach,” Ty, a junior, admits. “But it’s actually been really cool. It’s a great bond to have, all of the boys love her and, surprisingly, she knows more about baseball than I thought.”

Ty says there were some questions about his sister’s age that came about when the idea of her coaching was first broached, but two years later it’s not an issue.

“It’s been mainly like any other coach,” he said. “There were some parents who thought she was too young, but she’s really put the hammer down when kids talk back. She keeps her composure.”

Kehoe thinks his assistant’s age has actually been a benefit, not a hindrance.

“She knows almost all of the boys and the boys know her, on the diamond and off it,” Kehoe said. “They know that when she says things, it’s because she truly cares about them and also because she knows what she’s talking about.”

And McKinney isn’t afraid to blend her softball knowledge into the game of baseball. Just last week, in a junior varsity game against Boone, she went to what she called a softball play — a pitch and quick pick-off attempt at third base, something that is seen routinely in the girls’ game — to get an out and end a scoring threat.

“I pulled a softball move on the baseball field, that was pretty cool,” she said.

So does McKinney see herself continuing as a baseball coach in the future? That gets a let’s wait and see type answer, but down the road she admits she’ll probably head back to the softball diamond.

“Right now I’m iffy about it, but I think if I got the opportunity to be a head coach someday it would be on the softball side,” she said. “It’s not that I don’t love baseball, I do, but I’ve always loved softball too.”

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