Whiteville (N.C.) senior MacKenzie Gore received his trophy as the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year on Wednesday.
Gore becomes the first player from North Carolina to win the award, which has been present annually since 1986. He joins a list of former winners that includes Gary Sheffield (1986), Alex Rodriguez (1993), Zack Greinke (2002) and Clayton Kershaw (2006).
“It’s not something I expected,” Gore told the Wilmington Star News. “There are a lot of good players across the country. It’s a blessing.”
He likely also didn’t expect the manner in which he would receive the award. Former Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood took the sizeable trophy to Whiteville to honor Gore, looking like a groundskeeper mowing the field’s grass before revealing his identity.
Wood was a 14-year major leaguer, the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star.
Gore, an East Carolina commit, had been named the N.C. Gatorade State Player of the Year on Tuesday. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound left-handed pitcher is ranked as the nation’s No. 4 MLB Draft prospect for 2017 by Baseball America.
At Whiteville, Gore also played outfield and first base. This spring, he has led his team to a 23-6 record and a N.C. 1A state championship berth for the fourth year in a row. The Wolfpack will face Murphy (N.C.) in a best-of-three series at N.C. State starting Friday night.
He is 10-0 with a 0.20 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings this season. At the plate, Gore is hitting a team-best .482 with 17 extra-base hits and 27 RBI.
“MacKenzie Gore is a fierce competitor,” Whiteville coach Brett Harwood told the Charlotte Observer. “The combination of his elite athleticism and tremendous work ethic has made him one of the best players in the nation.”
Additionally, Gore has a 4.07 weighted GPA and is member of his school’s National Honor Society. It is a well-earned honor, and while Gore might have been surprised, many around the country likely are not.