Mike Massey always knew what type of baseball player he wanted to be.
He understood that he wouldn’t be a big-bopping power hitter, but the 2016 Br. Rice grad knew one thing: he could play the old-fashioned way.
During the standout’s three years at the University of Illinois, Massey relied on fundamentals, using his strengths in the field and at the plate, where he consistently made contact and moved runners around.
His hard work is paying off, and on June 4 in the fourth round of the MLB Draft, Massey was selected by the Kansas City Royals.
“I’m 6-foot and 180 pounds. I won’t be hitting home runs 450 feet,” Massey said with a laugh. “I have to understand who I am as a player and stay with my approach. I don’t try to do too much. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths.”
The 156th pick overall, Massey is the highest drafted infielder in Illini baseball history. He played second base for the Illini.
In three seasons at Illinois, he hit .324 (209 for 645).
This spring as a junior, Massey hit .317 with 5 home runs, 28 RBI, 31 runs and 14 doubles in 55 games. Illinois (36-21) ended the season in a NCAA regional.
On June 3, after the draft’s first two rounds were completed, Massey figured he’d hear his name the next day.
“You’re lucky enough to get that call. It’s surreal,” he said. “It’s every player’s dream to be a Major Leaguer, play on TV, play in those cathedrals.”
Massey received the news at home in Palos Park with his parents and siblings around him.
“To get the call, get the opportunity and see how it affects the people around you, that’s pretty cool,” Massey said. “To see their reaction, it’s more about the sacrifices they made for you.”
Massey finished his Illini career with 17 home runs, 110 RBI, 87 runs and 43 doubles, but his game isn’t limited to his bat.
He won an American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his superb fielding at second base.
During his sophomore and junior seasons, Massey committed 1 error in 307 chances. However, that defensive prowess wasn’t always there.
“I really credit my time at Br. Rice and Illinois. At Rice, I played shortstop and really struggled to field during my senior year,” Massey said. “[Coach Sean McBride, Coach Tim O’Connell and Illinois Assistant Coach Adam Christ], they were all huge in helping me.”
According to McBride, who was an assistant coach when Massey attended Br. Rice and is now the skipper, Massey wanted to improve his glove work and got it done the old-fashioned way: lots of practice.
“As an assistant, you offer the kids a chance to work on things before and after games,” McBride said. “We’d be out there at 7 in the morning on a Saturday taking grounders before an 11 a.m. game. He couldn’t pick the ball up for a stretch, but he worked through it. He was always good enough.”
Massey signed his contract in June with the Royals and reported to the Burlington Royals in the Appalachian League.
Wherever he lands in the lineup, Massey is ready.
“I want to be consistent in everything I do,” Massey said. “I’m going to work hard, sign a ton of autographs and try to be a role model. I’m blue-collar, hard-working, and I’ll work hard to get as many wins as I can for the team.”