If anyone needs further evidence of how much Ryan McMahon of Santa Ana Mater Dei has matured as a player in his senior baseball season, just examine what he accomplished last week when he was named the most valuable player of the Southern California Boras Classic.
On the first day of the tournament, he struck out four times in four at-bats against Newhall Hart.
Then, in a marvelous demonstration of possessing the much-desired "short-term memory" skill found in quarterbacks and top athletes, he proceeded to collect eight consecutive hits over the next three games.
"He's one of those special players mentally," Coach Burt Call said. "He's tough as well as talented."
At 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds, McMahon was Mater Dei's starting quarterback as a junior and for much of his senior year while the Monarchs tutored junior Chase Forrest to take over. Others told him to give up football, because baseball was the sport for his future. But he made a commitment to Coach Bruce Rollinson and standout teammate Thomas Duarte that he'd finish his senior year.
"I had given my word," McMahon said. "I wasn't going to quit on them."
Forrest took over the team in the playoffs, and Mater Dei made it to the Pac-5 Division championship game with McMahon serving as Forrest's advisor.
"He was very helpful and very supportive and always giving me feedback," Forrest said. "He was a coach out there."
Said Rollinson: "After the 2011 season, where he suffered cruel and unusual punishment, it would have been easy for that young man to say, 'It's time for me to focus on baseball.' But he didn't do that. By making that commitment, he gave up substantial opportunities for national teams. It shows what kind of a kid he is. I'm his biggest fan right now."
So there are two examples of qualities every team needs from a player — mental toughness and loyalty. And other qualities continue to surface and explain why McMahon could have lots of options come June, when baseball's professional draft takes place.
He signed with USC to play third base, but his skills and maturity are coming through loud and clear. He entered this week batting .479 with 18 runs batted in and three home runs in 15 games against top competition for a Mater Dei team ranked No. 1 in the nation by several publications.
"I'm honored to be talked about for the draft and honored to have a scholarship to USC," he said. "We'll figure it out in June."
Time flies by so fast when you're having fun, and that has happened to McMahon, who recalls showing up four years ago as an eager but slightly overwhelmed freshman following the likes of athletes named Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley, Cory Hahn and Ty Moore.
"At Mater Dei, it's kind of intimidating with all the greatness that happens in every sport," he said. "You come in looking up at those guys and want to learn from them and try to be like them. I asked a lot of questions and probably was told I was annoying at least once a week, but I was trying to get a feel for everything."
McMahon is a good listener and a good leader. He's already helping prepare his younger brother, Tyler, an aspiring seventh-grade athlete, for the ups and downs ahead.
"I just give it to him real," he said. "I let him know it's a struggle and you need to push through it and there's challenges along the way. He's learned that pretty quickly."
Whoever comes in contact with McMahon usually walks away with a positive impression, because he's all about effort, focus and dedication of the game.
"I want to be the best," he said. "I keep striving for that."