Many high school students take gap years after they graduate to simply escape from the stress of school. Innes Mackay, who graduated from Wilson last June, had a different motive. Mackay ventured to the Dominican Republic with hopes of eventually playing baseball professionally.
The former Wilson outfielder began his journey in August. “The experience has been the hardest of my life, but also the most rewarding,” he said.
Part of the challenge for Mackay came from the language transition. He had little experience with Spanish before his departure and, “felt alone in a crowd” during the first couple of weeks.
Luckily, Mackay has been able to adapt after several months in the country. Speaking with locals at practice almost every day, as well as making daily trips to the corner store, has allowed for him to become “solidly proficient” in Spanish.
Mackay also had to adapt to his new living conditions. “Adjusting to the heat without A/C or electricity was killer,” he emphasized.
In addition to the culture shift, Mackay has also experienced many changes on the baseball diamond during his stay in the Caribbean. In terms of position, he quickly made the jump from outfield to third base. Six or more hours of practice six days a week have allowed him to tremendously improve his skills, as well his mentality. “The aspect of my game that’s improved the most is my work ethic,” he explained.
The ex-Tiger currently plays for the Julio Franco Baseball Academy, which he calls “the most successful and prestigious academy in Consuelo.” The team includes about 15 other players, ranging from ages 14 to 19. All of the players hope to one day compete in Major League Baseball (MLB). “This is an opportunity for many of these kids to escape severe poverty,” Mackay said.
Several months of hard work have already paid dividends for Mackay. In November, he drew the interest of a Los Angeles Dodgers scout during one of his academy’s workouts. “We’ve been in touch. The future looks bright,” he said.
While the trip has been successful overall, there have been a couple of bumps in the road. Unfortunately, Mackay has been dealing with severe shoulder inflammation for the last few months, which has restricted his ability to throw. However, this has not kept him from continuing to hone both his skills at the plate and glove work in the field. He acknowledged that “it was just part of the journey.”
Mackay will return to the United States in May. If he is not selected in this year’s MLB draft, he will try out to play for Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia, Alabama and see how things go from there.
While his future remains uncertain, Mackay would like to remind Wilson students, “It’s never too late to follow your dreams.” •