MITCHELL – Longtime South Dakota amateur baseball standout Billy McMacken of Brookings is this year’s recipient of the Mark Mehlhaff Memorial Award, which is awarded to the state’s comeback player of the year.
McMacken, a 2014 inductee into the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, has spent this summer playing in a reserve role for the newly-formed Class B Renner Bullets, a 38-and-over squad that qualified for this year’s state amateur tournament.
McMacken will receive the award between the evening games on Thursday, Aug. 13.
McMacken has returned to the diamond after a year-long battle with Stage 3 colon cancer. He was diagnosed on June 27, 2019, and went through months of chemotherapy and radiation before surgery to remove the tumor on March 5, 2020.
Billy, who credits God, his wife, Carley, and his three children – Thomas (24), Camden (7) and Kendall (5) – for being his inspiration in his cancer battle, is now in remission.
McMacken spent May and June preparing to get healthy enough to play in a game for Renner – walking 10,000 steps a day and biking 6 to 10 miles three days a week. His comeback was complete on July 10 in Dell Rapids when he played first base and batted four times (0-2 with two walks). Since that time he has logged various innings here and there and pinch hit a handful of times.
He credits his teammates at Renner this summer for accepting him as a teammate and providing needed support to him going all the way back to May. He added, “In one short summer, a bunch of guys that I played against and respected over the years as ball players really became my brothers. This ranks up there as one of my favorite seasons ever.”
McMacken played 27 years for the Brookings Cubs and most recently did a two-year stint with the Flandreau Cardinals. His bat and his arm were both noted weapons during his long and storied career.
As a pitcher, he tallied 168 victories – including being the winning pitcher in three of Brookings’ six state titles. On the mound, he recorded a 34-game winning streak from 1997-2000 and tossed 27 shutouts, two no-hitters and four one-hitters.
McMacken currently has 241 career amateur baseball home runs and has homered in his teens, 20s, 30s and 40s. He said he would like to accomplish the home run feat in his 50s, as well, but has yet to find a team to agree to play on a Little League Field.
Overall, he said the state tournament was far and away his favorite part of the summer. He played in nine state championship games, six of which Brookings won (1996-2000 and 2002), clubbed 17 home runs in state tournament play and was named state tourney MVP three times.
McMacken is married to Augustana University Hall of Fame golfer Carley (Roach) McMacken and has three kids – Thomas, Camden and Kendall.
He encourages all men and women age 50 and over to get a colonoscopy if they have yet to have one. It could save their life like it did his.