By Dave Wagner
After a record-setting four-year career at Eastern New Mexico University, Dallas McMann is getting his feet wet in professional baseball this summer with his hometown Amarillo Dillas.
McMann signed a contract with the Class A Dillas last week as a backup catcher. He dressed for a home game Thursday night, then left with the team for a weeklong, two-city road trip.
“He’ll be a catcher-designated hitter kind of guy,” ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh said. “The (starting) catcher they’ve got is pretty good.”
McMann caught two innings in a backup role for the Dillas on Saturday night, then worked Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Rio Grande Valley in Harlingen, Texas. He went 0 for 3 at the plate.
“I was a little bit nervous, being my first (start),” McMann said by phone from Alexandria, La., where the Dillas were preparing for a Tuesday night doubleheader after Monday’s game against the Aces was rained out.
“I think I had a lot of help,” he said of calling Sunday’s shutout win. “It was the third game of the series, so we’d already seen their hitters and had a pretty good idea of how to pitch to them.”
McMann holds ENMU records for batting average in a single season (.433 in 2002) and a career (.376). He also has the school career mark for doubles with 53, and is second in home runs with 21.
West Texas A&M coach Mark Jones was instrumental in getting McMann a look from Dillas manager and Clovis native John Harris, Clabaugh said. “I’m very grateful to him for that,” he said of Jones.
He added that the Dillas hope to groom McMann for more permanent duty next season.
“I think Dallas will learn a little bit about the pro game, and next year he has a chance to be the main guy,” Clabaugh said.
McMann, who was scheduled to catch Tuesday’s first game, said the biggest adjustment — both on offense and defense — has been in going from the aluminum bat used in the college game to wood bats.
He said because the ball doesn’t jump off wood the way it does aluminum, you can be a bit more aggressive in going after the hitters.
“You can get away with pitching the hitters a little different,” he said. “In college, you pretty much had to stay away.”
McMann ackowledged that Jones served as a go-between in helping to hook him up with the Dillas.
“He had set up a time when I could work out with them when I got home,” McMann said. “(Harris) had talked to me during the season. He said, ‘Contact me after the season and we’ll see what we can do.’”