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Kevin McReynolds (sliding under the tag of Mets catcher Gary Carter) reached the big leagues with the Padres in 1983, then hit 20 home runs in 1984, his first full season. He hit .265/.328/.447 with 211 home runs in a 12-year career than included stints with the Mets—for whom he went 20-20 in 1988—and two years with the Royals. McReynolds’ $10 million deal with the Mets after the 1990 season made him the highest-paid player in franchise history at that time. (Ronald Modra/Getty)

Kevin McReynolds’ name bespeaks his Scottish and Irish ancestry. But his voice and accent are pure Arkansas.

The two meshed throughout McReynolds’ amateur baseball career, as he dominated at Little Rock’s Sylvan Hills High before attending Arkansas.

The first two years of his college career were out of a storybook. He started as a freshman and hit two home runs during the 1979 College World Series while batting .556 for the tournament, as the Razorbacks reached the finals before losing to Cal State Fullerton.

As a sophomore in 1980, McReynolds won the MVP award in the old Southwest Conference, hitting .386 with 17 home runs in the spring, then won another MVP award that summer at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., helping the Alaska Goldpanners to the NBC title.

“We landed in Washington (from Alaska) and bussed from Seattle through to Wichita, going through South Dakota to play some games,” McReynolds remembered in a July phone interview. “I think it’s hard to appreciate the good times unless you learn through the stepping stones.”

Entering the 1981 season, McReynolds was a marked man as one of the top players in college baseball. When Allan Simpson decided to launch All-America Baseball News—which was renamed Baseball America about 18 months later—with a focus on college baseball and the draft, he made a College Preview the focus of the first issue.

And he made McReynolds the cover boy.

“That was quite a while ago—more than 30 years,” McReynolds said in a July phone interview. “I probably did see it, but that’s a long time ago.

“I’m not sure why I was on it, but I know I had a really good sophomore year at Arkansas, and had gone that summer to Fairbanks and played well, then the NBC tournament in Wichita, and won that, got named MVP. So I did have a good year the year before.”

McReynolds went on to have many more good years, despite tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee as a college junior. He reached the major leagues with the Padres in 1983, hit 20 homers in his first full season in 1984 and hit .265/.328/.447 with 211 home runs in a 12-year career that included two stints with the Mets and two years with the Royals.

McReynolds’ career ended at age 34 with three trips to the disabled list for his balky right knee; he’s gone on to varied post-career interests, including partnering with friends in the restaurant business and his long-time ownership of a duck hunting club.

“It’s been on my time,” McReynolds said of his post-baseball life, “that’s what it’s been. The last couple of years when I was playing, I purchased a commercial duck hunting club down here in Dewitt (Ark.), in the southeast part of the state, called the Double Deuce. I spend a good amount of time down there.”

The 565-acre club’s website calls the Double Deuce a “duck hunter’s paradise,” and it has made McReynolds happy in his baseball retirement. He looks back on his big league career fondly, due in part to some of the Hall of Famers that he got to play with as a teammate.

“Tony Gwynn really comes to mind,” McReynolds said of the late Padres star. “He and I were in the same draft (class) and went to instructs together. When I was drafted I had blown out my ACL as a junior, so I didn’t play that summer. I got to meet Tony in instructional league—I wasn’t able to do a whole lot, but batted mostly—but it was fun being in the clubhouse with him.

“He was very good from the start, a hard worker who was not the most physically gifted or had the greatest body. He earned everything that he did get, and he worked on hitting all the time.

“But I was really lucky. I got to start my career with Tony Gwynn, and I played with guys like Goose Gossage, Graig Nettles—these guys were legends to me growing up that I got to play with. Steve Garvey, George Brett in Kansas City—legends.”

Back in Arkansas, McReynolds’ career puts him among the schools’ legends—he has the most big league home runs of any alumnus in school history. The Razorbacks have a banner at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville honoring him as one of the school’s big league alumni, and this year the Razorbacks had a giveaway day in his honor.

They handed out Arkansas “shirseys” with McReynolds’ No. 22 on the back—but instead of the team’s signature crimson, it was in St. Patrick’s Day green for a March 17 game against Mississippi State.

“It was weird seeing that many people with my name on the back,” McReynolds said. “They have big fliers in the stadium, guys who have played there and made it to big leagues, and there’s one with me on it, so it’s a neat deal.”

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So was being on the first issue of Baseball America magazine—whether McReynolds knew it at the time or not.

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