For one play, Brett McNaughton was like his idol.
Playing shortstop in a Connie Mack game last summer, McNaughton ran right, fielded the ball backhanded, jumped and threw the runner out at first.
“All my friends were (telling) me, ‘Oh you did the Derek Jeter,’” McNaughton said.
But the jubilance of the moment was short-lived.
“I had an opportunity the very next play to do the same throw,” McNaughton said. “I think I threw it eight feet over our first baseman’s head.
“That was the last time I attempted that.”
McNaughton, who area baseball coaches voted as the 2012 Enid News & Eagle Northwest Oklahoma player of the year, was nothing to joke about for opposing teams during Pioneer's run to the state semifinals in Class A this past season.
The senior, who signed with Northern Oklahoma Enid, hit .378 with four home runs and 28 RBI. As a pitcher, he was 11-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 80 strikeouts.
But his ability to relax and enjoy playing the game with his teammates is what made McNaughton’s senior year memorable.
“I (would) just try to keep the mood light,” McNaughton said. “Whenever you get mad, you don’t play your best. You always try to keep picking people up, and that’s always been what I’ve tried to do.
“A lot of us have played together for so long. We know the situation of the game and stuff. If it’s a really close game, we know we need to be focused on the game and take care of business.”
The Mustangs’ senior class, highlighted by McNaughton and his fellow all-region teammates, Holden Hedges and Derek Gabriel, won 30 or more games and made the state tournament three times in their four seasons at Pioneer.
McNaughton was the kind of player who could play any position in the field, said Pioneer coach Dave Riesen. McNaughton started his freshman season mostly playing in the outfield, but he first made the move to shortstop at Pioneer during a tournament in Preston.
“I was a little-bitty kid when I was a freshman, and I was really nervous at first (playing shortstop), but after a while I kind of settled down and felt really comfortable there,” McNaughton said.
What developed after reaching a comfort level at shortstop was a dominant double-play duo.
“I say Brett (is) the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever coached, and Holden is probably the best defensive second baseman I’ve ever coached,” Riesen said. “Our up-the-middle was outstanding.”
This fall will be the first time he can focus solely on baseball when McNaughton enrolls at NOC Enid. He was a multi-sport athlete at Pioneer who played four years of basketball, and three years of football, which cut into summer and school baseball practices.
Because McNaughton will be able to spend the upcoming fall focusing on baseball instead of other sports, Riesen thinks his former player may have unlimited potential.
“I don’t think he has really scratched the surface in some areas because he’s played multiple sports,” Riesen said. “They are looking at him as possibly a pitcher and a position player. Whichever way he ends up or if he ends up doing a two-way role, I think his ceiling is pretty high.”
Hitting is an area McNaughton wants to focus on more in college, as long as his college coaches don’t use him as only a pitcher.
“If I end up getting to hit, I hope to improve my hitting because I’ve never had a lot of time to work on that,” McNaughton said. “I think that is what needs the most work.”