Feb. 14, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
If there’s anyone who can make lemonade when life hands her lemons, it’s South Carolina redshirt sophomore shortstop Kenzi Maguire. Getting hit by a foul ball in the on-deck circle in high school ended up improving her defensively, and sitting out last year with the Gamecocks due to injury fueled her desire to compete.
“It was definitely disappointing, but I learned a lot being on the bench and seeing how I could help team in other ways,” Maguire said. “We had a good season, and it stunk not being able to play with those seniors.”
After an outstanding 2016 freshman season in which she was the everyday starter at shortstop, turning in spectacular plays with her range and quick side-arm release, as well as a solid contributor at the plate with a .270 average, Maguire suffered a season-ending wrist injury that required surgery nine games into her sophomore year. Now equipped with a screw between her thumb and wrist, Maguire is itching to “get dirty” and make plays in the middle infield once again.
“Over the summer, I don’t think my dad could get me off the field,” Maguire said. “I missed the competition and not being able to be out there to help my teammates. It was really hard.” The quick delivery with her arm angle coming from down under is a thing of beauty and can be the difference between an infield hit and an out, but it wasn’t always that way.
“No, I haven’t always had that (throwing motion),” Maguire said. “I was working towards it in the eighth or ninth grade. I was on deck one day and got hit with a foul ball. It hurt, so I couldn’t throw overhand. I started throwing sidearm after that because it hurt my collarbone, and I couldn’t really move my arm. My collarbone still sticks out a little bit now.
“Everyone thinks it hurts my elbow when I throw like that, but my arm never hurts. I’m definitely a lot quicker with my throws this way.”
Maguire’s dad, Kevin, had worked with his daughter from a young age, and the former professional baseball player in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization had an eager pupil.
“My dad has made a huge impact on me, and he’s definitely the reason why I’m here,” Maguire said. “He had taught me everything I know. I have two older brothers who played baseball, so he would be out there with their teams, and at age four, I was out there with them playing. I was tagging along and inviting myself to their practices.
“I also played volleyball in high school, and after a volleyball game, I’d get my dad and say, ‘let’s go hit.’ The most important thing he taught me was about the mental toughness with the sport. That’s the hardest part because it’s a game of failure. I could strike out ten times in a row, and he’d tell me that it’s part of the game and that it’s OK. He taught me all the skills, but the mental toughness is the biggest part of your toolbox as an athlete.”
My goal is to help our team get to the Women’s College World Series.
Playing ball with dad is still a regular occurrence and when asked the last time she had a catch with him, Maguire said “Saturday.”
Maguire added that she models her game after former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter.
“He’s just so good, and he’s so humble,” Maguire said. “He’s not cocky. He just seems like this awesome, humble guy.”
Maguire is also working on her future outside of the game. When she’s not fielding ground balls and turning two, Maguire has immersed herself in the Gamecock Leadership Academy.
“I’ve learned so much, and I wish it’s something I could go to everyday,” Maguire said. “I’ve learned how important it is to communicate. I’m kind of quiet. Breaking out of my shell is something I need to do for this team. I think I’ve done a better job of it this year, but it’s still a process.
“It will definitely help me in the real world. If you want to grow in your job, you’re going to have to be a leader.”
Maguire is studying sports management and entertainment and likes the idea of being a coach while also finding out more about the business side of sports management, sales, and marketing. With the Gamecocks having reached the NCAA Tournament five years in a row, Maguire has bigger goals for the team this year.
“My goal is to help our team get to the Women’s College World Series,” Maguire said. “I just want to do so well, that we all make it that far. I’m really excited to be back. It’s been a long year of not playing.”
When it comes to doing her part for the team, of course she wants to help with her bat, but she takes pride in her defense.
“They call me 'warning track power' here,” Maguire laughed. “So, I guess I’d be excited to hit a home run, but a double play is probably the most exciting for me because usually it’s going to be between [second baseman Mackenzie Boesel] and I to turn it, so we have to work together.”
Looking back at the evolution of her quick throwing motion, Maguire sees it as somewhat good fortune that she took that foul ball off the collarbone.
“I was working towards being a lot quicker and throwing from different angles before that, but that expedited the process,” Maguire said. “So, yep, it was a good thing.”
With that being said, Maguire will definitely try to avoid getting plunked again while waiting for her turn to bat.
“Yeah, I don’t want to get hit again.”
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