Gore selected as Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year

Published: May. 31, 2017 at 2:48 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2017 at 5:49 AM EDT
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MacKenzie Gore will look to earn a third state championship beginning this Friday in Raleigh....
MacKenzie Gore will look to earn a third state championship beginning this Friday in Raleigh. (Source: John Blake)
At the time of his selection, Gore had posted a 9-0 record with a 0.22 earned run average and...
At the time of his selection, Gore had posted a 9-0 record with a 0.22 earned run average and 132 strikeouts in 63.1 innings.  (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - On Tuesday, Whiteville's MacKenzie Gore was named the best player in the state of North Carolina.

One day later, he was named the best player in the United States.

Former Chicago Cubs All-Star Kerry Wood presented Gore with the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award Wednesday morning in a surprise ceremony on the Whiteville baseball field. Gore initially thought he was coming to the field to record a segment for ESPN.

Wood, in dramatic fashion, delivered the massive trophy via a lawnmower.

"I was like, 'Why am I getting up a 8 in the morning to come out to the baseball field?'" Gore said. "They were like 'Yeah, we just have to take a few pictures of the team.' They get me turned around, and you see a guy on a lawnmower. You're like, 'What's going on?'

"It was awesome," he added.

Gore's numbers have been elite both on and off the field his senior season. The left-hander, who has drawn comparisons to Cole Hamels, has led Whiteville to the state championship series with a 9-0 record, 132 strikeouts, and in the classroom, has compiled a 4.07 weighted GPA.

"You can tell right away what they're talking about when they speak about his character," said Wood, who spoke at length with the players and Gore about their upcoming state finals series, and what to expect in the upcoming years of their life. "It was really cool to be out here today, to see his family, and be a part of it."

Head coach Brett Harwood has been a part of the baseball scene in southeast North Carolina for decades, and guided Gore through his four years with the Wolfpack. Whiteville hopes to capture its third state title in four years.

"For me, I would dare to say he's the best pitcher to ever pitch in Columbus County. I really believe that," Harwood said. "And not far behind, one of the best players that's ever played. Not only can he pitch, but he's a great athlete."

Gore, despite the constant chatter about his projected top five draft status, has stuck to a mantra all year long -- "Ignore the noise." He insists that he will head to East Carolina in the fall, yet whatever happens, right now, his entire focus is delivering another state championship to Whiteville.

"You've got all these guys that you've grown up with, and all these people that've seen you grow up around town," Gore reflected. "You've just got to do it for them. It's not really for me now. It's these freshmen and sophomores that don't have a state championship yet."

"And...I want to win a third one."

Gore is ranked as the No. 4 overall recruit by Perfect Game and No. 5 by Baseball America.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and the 50 states. The award is given for athletic excellence, academic achievement, and exemplary character on and off the field. Former winners include Alex Rodriguez, Peyton Manning, and Clayton Kershaw, among many other Hall of Famers.

Whether Whiteville gets that title or not, Gore has cemented his legacy as one of the most decorated athletes in the history of North Carolina.

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