It hasn’t all been that easy, though. Obviously naturally gifted, Gore didn’t just stumble upon his success. He had to work for it. And he had to realize that he wasn’t, in fact, the best.

Back in August 2016, Gore competed at Petco Park in the Perfect Game All-American Classic, along with the two players drafted ahead of him–Royce Lewis and Hunter Greene–as well as an entire host of talented players. In Gore’s mind, some of those players were better than he was.

“I wanted to be the best player in the country,” Gore said. “And when I played in the (Classic), I wasn’t the best player in the country at that point.

“I just had a lot of work to do.”

That wasn’t much of an issue.

“The biggest thing about MacKenzie, even from when he was a ninth grader, was his drive and his work ethic,” said Whiteville pitching coach Fielding Hammond. “And a lot of that goes back to his parents. They’ve always kept him humble.

“Coach Harwood has always done a good job making him keep that work ethic and keep that drive. I think everything else has kind of followed.”

What followed was 15 pounds of added muscle, which led to increased strength and endurance. Gore improved his velocity. He started pitching more like he would have to at the next level, mixing in offspeed pitches more frequently and on the rare occasions he was behind in counts.

What followed was Gore once again leading Whiteville back to a state championship and, despite his objections, a third state championship MVP award.

So Gore did what any humble, small-town, team-first Whiteville boy would do–what the best player in the country would do.

He gave the award to someone else–Jake Harwood, the coach’s son who picked up the win in the second game of the state championship.

“My time was done,” Gore said. “I didn’t really need an MVP to end it. I just needed a state championship.”

For Coach Harwood, who never felt like he could help Gore on the field any more than he was already helping himself, that moment meant everything.

“It meant to me a lot as a coach,” he said. “It showed that we were doing something right here in Whiteville.”


High School Player of the Year
1992 Preston Wilson, of/rhp, Bamberg-Ehrhardt (S.C.) HS
1993 Trot Nixon, of/lhp, New Hanover HS, Wilmington, N.C.
1994 Doug Million, lhp, Sarasota (Fla.) HS
1995 Ben Davis, c, Malvern (Pa.) Prep
1996 Matt White, rhp, Waynesboro Area (Pa.) HS
1997 Darnell McDonald, of, Cherry Creek HS, Englewood, Colo.
1998 Drew Henson, 3b/rhp, Brighton (Mich.) HS
1999 Josh Hamilton, of/lhp, Athens Drive HS, Raleigh, N.C.
2000 Matt Harrington, rhp, Palmdale (Calif.) HS
2001 Joe Mauer, c, Cretin-Derham Hall HS, St. Paul, Minn.
2002 Sott Kazmir, lhp, Cypress Falls HS, Houston
2003 Jeff Allison, rhp, Veterans Memorial HS, Peabody, Mass.
2004 Homer Bailey, rhp, LaGrange (Texas) HS
2005 Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
2006 Adrian Cardenas, ss/2b, Monsignor Pace HS, Opa Locka, Fla.
2007 Mike Moustakas, ss, Chatsworth (Calif.) HS
2008 Ethan Martin, rhp/3b, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga.
2009 Bryce Harper, c, Las Vegas HS
2010 Kaleb Cowart, 3b/rhp, Cook HS, Adel, Ga.
2011 Dylan Bundy, rhp, Owasso (Okla.) HS
2012 Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.
2013 Clint Frazier, of, Loganville (Ga.) HS
2014 Alex Jackson, of, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
2015 Kyle Tucker, of, Plant HS, Tampa
2016 Mickey Moniak, of, La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad, Calif.
2017 MacKenzie Gore, lhp, Whiteville (N.C.) High