By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
Over the years, the NCAA transfer portal has allowed athletes to get a change of scenery and find where they belong. The implication is that it’s all butterflies and rainbows, a smooth system. But what people fail to realize is there is a level of fear that creeps in when you make that decision to add your name to the portal. This uneasiness set in for sophomore center fielder McKenzie Wilson, who transferred to Baylor from California State University, Fresno over the summer of 2021 to play softball.
“When you enter the [transfer] portal, it’s kind of intimidating,” Wilson said. “You no longer have a place to go home, you no longer have a school to go to.”
For Wilson, her decision to leave Fresno State was not an easy one, as it was where she committed and called home for three seasons. After a season-ending injury in 2021 as a Bulldog, she decided it was time for a change.
Wilson entered her name in the portal, and one institution that was already on her radar was the first to reach out: Baylor. She talked with head coach Glenn Moore and was shocked by how he approached the conversation.
“I had a conversation with him and [it was] the most genuine conversation I’ve ever had with a college coach,” Wilson said. “I knew something was different about coach Moore and the program that he was running.”
Moore found out about Wilson with the help from the father of Jessica Scroggins, former stand-out outfielder at Baylor. Moore knew right away Wilson would be a good piece for the squad and reached out as soon as he could.
“Jessica Scroggins was an All-American here and from California and her dad actually alerted us to McKenzie,” Moore said. “He made me aware that she was going to [enter the portal]. [I] knew that she was one that we certainly would benefit from having.”
Wilson said Baylor stood out as more than a strong athletic institution; Her eyes opened to a future outside of softball. As someone who was also looking to grow in her faith, Baylor satisfied that desire as well.
“I know Baylor is a place I can develop on the softball field, but it’s more than that to me,” Wilson said. “I know that with a Baylor degree, I’m three steps ahead of a lot of people. On top of that is the faith aspect; Baylor is a place where I am now growing in my faith more than I could have ever imagined.”
The Long Beach, Calif., native is a mass communication and broadcast journalism major at Baylor, with her eyes set on a future career involved around sports. Wilson said she knows her softball days will eventually come to an end, but she believes she can fuel her passion for sports through media.
“There’s going to be a day when I’m going to have to hang up my cleats,” Wilson said. “I have a true passion for sports, not just softball. Through sportscasting, I think I will continue to be able to share my passion for sports with the rest of the world, even though I won’t be playing.”
After seeing how Wilson is, Moore is not surprised to hear her potential future career path. He said she is more than welcome to represent the program in front of a camera whenever she wishes.
“[I] certainly would encourage her to be put in front of a camera and be the face of our program,” Moore said. “I think that big things are on the horizon for her, I could see her going big time in that profession.”
Since being at Baylor, the team atmosphere immediately stood out to Wilson as well — the fact that it feels like a family. She said she has never experienced anything like this with a softball team.
“Right from the get go, I noticed that this team got along, which is not normal for an all-female sport,” Wilson said. “You would think that [since] we spend so much time on the field [that] we would get sick of each other and not want to see each other outside the field. That doesn’t seem to be the case with this team.”
After being in Waco for over a semester and integrating into the team, Wilson fits what Moore seeks as a coach. He said she alleviates much stress due to her ability and skill set.
“She’s the whole ball of wax; Personality and certainly athleticism, she’s just got it all together,” Moore said. “I like the chess match of a game, how you put pressure on defenses with your speed. She certainly is a great defensive player, but she also brings the intangibles of the pressure game, and I really like that.”
Speed is a big part of Wilson’s game, as it allows her to put pressure on the opposition and open up big play opportunities.
“I am pretty fast,” Wilson said. “You can’t teach speed — it’s either you have it or you don’t. That’s kind of what brings me joy a little bit in playing and competing, is the fact that I can wreak havoc on the defense. [Defenses] put a shift on me and I still have so many tools in my arsenal that I can use.”
In Moore’s eyes, Wilson’s speed is going to put her in the record books due to her top-tier ability.
“I think she’ll be one of the top best runners we’ve had here in the sport,” Moore said. “She’s going to have a lot of stolen bases because I like to give her the green light to move up. She’ll certainly be one to contend with stolen measure records.”
Moore likes Wilson at center field and doesn’t expect her to change roles in her time at Baylor. Not only does Moore expect her to remain at center field, but he expects her to flourish. He believes she will join the list of all-time greatest outfielders this program has seen.
“She is the quarterback of the outfield,” Moore said. “We’ve had some All-Americans; back to Harmony Schwethelm, Jessie Scroggins, Kelly Osburn – I could go on and on about the outfielders we’ve had. Layout for balls, ESPN style catches, McKenzie will be that same caliber.”
Wilson hasn’t played a game since the 2020 season, which has her pumped to return to the diamond. She said she is ready to hit the road and kickstart this new journey in a new environment.
“There’s nothing like game day,” Wilson said. “That’s something that I’ve missed for a very long time. It’s all leading up to this moment and I’m just more hungry than ever.”
Moore believes fans at Getterman Field will immediately love Wilson and how she plays. He said the Baylor faithful are in for a treat when they get to see the fan favorite.
“The fans are going to love her,” Moore said. “Her dynamic personality, the dynamic play she brings to the field, they’re going to expect something to happen when she’s in the box. They’re also going to expect balls to be caught in the outfield, sometimes with spectacular catches. So she’ll be a fan favorite, for sure.”