Chris McMahon

Chris McMahon has become MLB attraction at West Chester Rustin High School

Chris McMahon has become MLB attraction at West Chester Rustin High School

Across the front of West Chester Rustin's uniform reads the word Knights, a close resemblance to the fictional team from the movie "The Natural."

And senior pitcher Chris McMahon could very well be Rustin's version of Roy Hobbs, Robert Redford's character in the legendary movie based on a ballplayer's remarkable natural talents.

"He's unique," Rustin High School head coach Bradley Harkins said this week. "He's just a tremendous athlete, and to see him excel in soccer, basketball and baseball — his parents have been phenomenal to allow him to play other sports. He could have chosen lacrosse and he'd be one of the best players on the team. I think that has helped him rise the way he has."

McMahon is unquestionably the best baseball player to come out of Rustin High School, which hasn't had a player drafted by a big-league team since the school opened its doors in 2006. But it wasn't until last season when baseball became McMahon's full-time extracurricular activity.

"Just playing three sports really helped with athleticism," McMahon said. "Using all types of muscles in your body. Specializing in one sport — some people have their reasons why they think it's good — I think playing all three, you're not missing out on anything. I tell people to play whatever you can until you can't."

In fact, McMahon wasn't even on a major-league scout's radar until his junior year at Rustin when he hit a four-inch growth spurt, climbing from 5-foot-10 to a lanky 6-2. The velocity on his fastball increased from mid-70s as a freshman to low-90s entering his senior season, and his control is equally as impressive, having surrendered only four walks in more than 53 innings.

"I wouldn't say we could see it get to this point," Harkins said. "We knew he was a good player. We knew he had a ton of potential. His sophomore year, he really turned it up. You could see his competitive nature on the mound. He continued to grow and get stronger. Really, every year he has grown by leaps and bounds. It's been pretty amazing."

And now those scouts' radar guns have been pointed squarely this season at McMahon, who is considered the top-ranked prospect in Pennsylvania and projected to be taken during the second round of next month's MLB draft. As many as 25 to 30 scouts have routinely showed up at Rustin, where they've had to install a pair of metal benches this season for scouts to stand on.

"It started pretty full throttle," Harkins said. "At the beginning of the season, we have typical southeast Pennsylvania weather. We were indoors at the All-Star Baseball Academy, and he was throwing a live bullpen to hitters. I walk into the door of a dozen guys waiting for us to get practice started.

"That was pretty eye-opening to see a dozen middle-aged men walking around our practice. Once the games started, they have been there in full force."

Last Wednesday, McMahon and the Knights saw their season come to an end, losing to Upper Merion in the quarterfinals of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs — and McMahon isn't exactly sure where he'll be playing next season. He's committed to the University of Miami next fall, but depending on the results of draft night, McMahon could forgo a collegiate career and jump right to the professional level.

"It's exciting. Only a handful of kids get to go through this," McMahon said. "Me and my family will sit down and talk about draft day and see what's best for me. ... It's fun, it's exciting. It can be overwhelming at times, but it's fun."