A calm hurricane
By KEITH NIEBUHR
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001
INVERNESS -- Sam McLain is steady.
Good pitch or bad pitch, his facial expression never changes. Good swing or bad swing, he remains focused. Win or lose, his attitude stays positive.
His success, however, is constant.
As the Hurricanes' starting quarterback, McLain led the county in passing last fall. As a punter, he averaged an area-best 41 yards a kick and was named Times second-team All-Suncoast.
For the baseball team, McLain is, according to his coach, Citrus' best base runner, defensive outfielder, hitter and pitcher.
"In football, if I lose it, everybody is watching me because I'm the leader," McLain said. "And I consider myself a leader on the baseball field, too.
"When other kids look up to you, if you throw a fit, it's not a good example and it's not my style. You've got to learn to handle stuff or it will consume you."
Off the field, McLain equally is efficient.
In the classroom, he has a 4.24 weighted grade point average and is ranked in the top 10 of his graduating class. He recently accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy, where he plans to play baseball and football.
"He's a calm person," Citrus baseball coach Mike Taylor said. "He's very focused. He stays pretty cool in all situations, and that's one reason why he's good.
"Baseball is an up-and-down game, a frustrating game, and when people have bad days, they tend to lose their cool. But he handles the frustration part real well. And that's what you have to do to be good in baseball because you're going to fail."
The senior is a three-year starter in baseball. Last spring, McLain was an honorable mention All-Suncoast pick. This season, the left-hander is 1-0 on the mound and will start there tonight against Lecanto.
"It's hard to say (what he's best at)," Taylor said. "He's pretty good all the way around.
"His pitching is strong. He's very smart, and he's got good stuff. He's got three pitches that he throws well. He also swings the bat well, with power and for average. He's got good power, and he also uses the whole field.
"He's not one-dimensional like a lot of guys that try to open it up and hit home runs," Taylor said. "And defensively, he's pretty good. He does all four phases of the game well."
McLain has played baseball since he was "4 or 5" and is serious about the sport, just as he is with every venture.
Baseball "is something I've worked on," McLain said. "(The success) is earned. A lot of people are like, "Wow, you've really got a lot of talent.' They don't see all the hours I've put in. They just see what I get out of it, not what I've put into it.
"Academics come a lot easier. What I do is pay attention to what I'm doing. I don't take anything lightly."
McLain is, admittedly, a perfectionist.
"I think you have to be or you sell yourself short and you don't get what you could get out of yourself," he said.
McLain's cerebral approach has had a great deal to do with his success in athletics.
During football season, he watches film. During baseball season, he works on his mechanics and studies opposing players to gain any edge he can.
"The good thing about somebody like that is that, especially this year, we can spend more time with other guys who need more coaching," Taylor said.
"We don't have to spend a whole lot of time trying to get him to do this or do that, and that frees us up to make the team better by getting the other guys better. We can't do a whole lot for him."
POSITION: Left-handed pitcher/outfield.
SIZE: 6-foot-1, 180 pounds.
COLLEGE CHOICE: Air Force Academy.
QUOTABLE: "They say that most left-handed pitchers are crazy, but Sam is pretty composed. The best thing about his pitching is his location and his being smart the way he mixes pitches. He's not a big, hard thrower, but he can throw (the fastball) for strikes, and he can throw the breaking ball for strikes." -- Citrus coach Mike Taylor.
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