The legend of Garth McKinney: A journey to the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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BY C.Y. Peters

In the memories of sports enthusiasts and cherished by locals alike from Happy Valley to Detroit – Garth McKinney.

As the days inch closer to May 18th, anticipation brews for Warrior fans. For on that day, Milligan University will play host to a momentous occasion – the induction of Garth McKinney into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame. It’s a celebration of decades of dedication, perseverance, and unparalleled talent.

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Born and raised in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains, Garth’s journey to greatness began on the dusty diamonds of Happy Valley. With a bat in hand and fire in his eyes, he carved his name into the lore of baseball. His feats were legendary – a two-time Johnson City Press Super 22 first-team honoree, All-Northeast Tennessee selection, and a staggering 33 career home runs. But it was his junior year, a season for the ages, where he transcended mere mortal status – boasting a .514 batting average, 18 homers, and 45 RBIs, while also commanding the mound with a 7-3 record.

Yet, Garth’s skillfulness wasn’t confined to the baseball diamond alone. With finesse and determination, he graced the hardwood, leaving defenders in his wake. His basketball accolades were just as impressive – 1,100 career points, two-time All-Northeast Tennessee selection, and a defensive prowess that earned him the title of Northeast Tennessee Defensive Player of the Year.

After lighting up the local scene, Garth’s talent drew the attention of scouts far and wide. A stint at Walters State showcased his skills, earning him accolades as the Tennessee National Junior College Athletic Association MVP and second-team All-American. The Detroit Tigers took notice, drafting him in the 29th round, thus igniting his journey through the ranks of professional baseball.

For five seasons, Garth graced the minor leagues, leaving a trail of awe-inspiring performances in his wake. His ascent to the Class AA level was marked by towering home runs and clutch plays. Even as he transitioned to the independent league circuit, his passion for the game never waned, as evidenced by his impressive batting averages and power-hitting displays.

On May 18th, the community will gather to honor their hometown hero. Garth McKinney takes his rightful place among the legends of Carter County sports. For his journey is not just a testament to athletic talent but a reminder of the power of perseverance, dedication, and the unwavering spirit of a small-town boy with big dreams.