In the Corner with Coach Atwood: Remember this Wrestler-Kellan McKeon
The first former North Carolina wrestler to be covered in the Remember this Wrestler Series is former state champion, Kellan McKeon. Kellan graduated from Chapel Hill High in 2004 after an outstanding high school wrestling career. The success he had in wrestling while in high school and college, and the success he has in life today, are profoundly important for young people to learn about. I appreciate him allowing me the opportunity to present his story to the readers of the column and hope what he’s done will inspire many others.
Kellan’s wrestling story begins in Maryland where he started wrestling while in third grade. He wouldn’t remain in Maryland long and a couple years later found himself in the wrestling heaven state of Pennsylvania where he’d continue to wrestle.
North Carolina came into the picture when Kellan was in the 7th grade. His family moved to Chapel Hill where enrolled at McDougle Middle School and joined the wrestling team. During this time, he also began wrestling with the Cardiac Kids Wrestling Club.
Kellan would continue wrestling until he was scheduled to enter high school, but his family threw him a curve ball prior to high school. During his freshman year, Kellan lived in Zurich, Switzerland. There was no wrestling offered there, but after one year he returned to Chapel Hill and the wrestling mat.
While at Chapel Hill High Kellan excelled in wrestling. He was a 3-year member of the wrestling team and he would win individual state championships in 2003 and 2004. Additionally, in 2003, he would represent Team North Carolina in the Greco-Roman Junior Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota placing 3rd in his weight division.
That 2003 state title was a sweet occasion for the future two-timer. In attendance to watch Kellan win was none other than his grandfather, Jack McKeon. At the time, Jack was an assistant to the owner of the Florida Marlins. In May of that year Jack was hired as the Marlins team manager, which is in the middle of the season, and he turned the club around and led them to a World Series championship. Kellan happily reciprocated his grandfather’s support during the state wrestling tournament by attending numerous playoff games, including the final game in New York when the Marlins won the World Series.
Managerial duties prevented Jack, the World Series Champion, from attending to watch the NCHSAA State Champion repeat in 2004.
From Chapel Hill, Kellan decided to make everyone in his hometown happy by enrolling at Duke. He wrestled for the Blue Devils from 2004-08 and served as a two-time team captain while earning an NCAA Academic All-American Award. Kellan graduated with a bachelor’s in history, a minor in Theatre, and with a certificate in Markets and Management.
After graduating from Duke, Kellan moved to Denver, Colorado where he would attend Law School at the University of Denver from 2008-2011. He passed the Colorado Bar Exam in 2012 and began working as an attorney representing clients in general civil litigation cases, mediations and trials, and argued a case in front of the Colorado Court of Appeals. He was also working as an Oil and Gas Landman helping to close numerous multimillion-dollar oil and gas transactions.
In 2010, Kellan would enter the realm that his family is well known for. That realm is baseball, particularly Major League Baseball. In the summer of 2010, Kellan completed a summer baseball operations internship with the New York Yankees, and in 2012 he completed a spring training internship with that same franchise.
In 2014, Kellan completed scout school with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau and began working as a part-time scout for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015. In 2017, he was hired as full-time scout for the Phillies, and moved back to North Carolina to scout amateur baseball (high school and college) in North Carolina and Virginia for the Phillies.
In 2019, Kellan was hired by the East Coast Pro Showcase as a legal advisor and board member. The East Coast Pro Showcase is an annual scout-driven baseball showcase where the best high school players on the east coast are selected to attend. The East Coast Pro Showcase is a longstanding event that has existed for over 28 years.
Today, Kellan continues his legal and Phillies scouting work. Here is Kellan’s response to my question of why he decided to become an MLB Scout:
“I have grown up around the game of baseball my entire life. My grandfather is a baseball lifer and has been in professional baseball for over 70 years. He is the second oldest manager to win a World Series and the second oldest to manage in the big leagues. My late uncle, Greg Booker, pitched in the big leagues and my other uncle, Kasey McKeon, is a scout for the Washington Nationals. My father also scouted for a brief time. As a child, I grew up playing baseball and traveling with my grandfather. I was the bat boy for the Cincinnati Reds for multiple summers. Having grown up around the game, I have had a lifelong passion for the game of baseball. I went to law school with the goal of working in a front office. Having been exposed to working in the front office with the Yankees in 2010, I realized that the ability to scout and evaluate players is invaluable. As a result, I decided to pursue scouting opportunities instead of front office opportunities. My background in legal and scouting should prepare me for a potential front office job if the opportunity arises.”
I asked Kellan to give readers a glimpse of what life is like for an MLB Scout. Here is his response:
“As a professional baseball scout, I spend a lot of time in the car and in hotels searching for baseball prospects. I work year-round, watching high school and college baseball games and meeting with players and coaches. All my scouting work, and the work of all MLB scouts, culminates with the MLB draft, which is held in July of every year. I have signed numerous players in six years and should have a couple players reach the big leagues soon.”
Besides scouting and practicing law Kellan is beginning a family of his own. His wife Samantha and he met in Denver. They are expecting their first child in February 2024. That’s the perfect month for a wrestler to have their first child! His future plans are to continue to grow his family, sign as many impact big leaguers as possible for the Philadelphia Phillies, hopefully one day become the scouting director for a Major League baseball club, and most importantly to continue strengthening his relationship with God.
In his limited amount of free time, Kellan enjoys skiing, fly fishing, and cooking (for his wife). He also enjoys getting back on the mat and helping younger wrestlers with technique and the mental side of the sport. I didn’t ask this, but Kellan made the point that his first born due in February was also a “future wrestler.” Baseball was never mentioned. How ya’ll reckon Grandpa Jack will respond to that?
I asked Kellan, an inductee into the 2015 Chapel Hill HS Hall of Fame, for some people who would provide a comment about him to put with the article. Here are those people and their response:
Jack McKeon, Grandfather, 2003 World Series winning team manager
“Kellan for many years realized that persistence was the key to success. He also knew that the road to success was always under construction and knew that he would encounter detours, potholes, Etc., but he knew that you can never give up. That mindset was key to his NC state championships. Watching him prepare for his matches, up 5am, run 5-7 miles each day, you knew you were looking at a winner. Probably prouder of him when he told me after winning the 129-class state championship that next year he was going to shoot for the 135-class. Why? So that his teammate could have a shot at the 129-class. He has that same mind now in his new position. He has worked his way up now to be recognized as one of MLB best scouts. Very proud of him!
John Castleberry – scout for the San Francisco Giants and founder of the East Coast Pro Showcase
“Kellan McKeon, an area scout with the Philadelphia Phillies who covers the North Carolina and Virginia and is on the Board of the East Coast Pro, the top HS showcase event in the summer where his legal advice and expertise has added great value by being involved.
A special young man who graduated from Duke where he wrestled and got his degree then went on to get his law degree in Colorado. A member of the Jack McKeon family, which is baseball royalty, he always remains humble. He's a guy who is a hard worker--a grinder who is diligent about his job and has a lot of passion for his job. He uses his intelligence and worth ethic to have a lot of success.
For a young man, he is respectful and always open to improving to be the best scout he can be. A good listener and very astute in evaluating and giving his opinion in a positive productive manner. This skill set, and his competitiveness, will eventually allow him to move up in our industry. He has all the qualities to eventually be a leader in our industry if given the chance.
One of the most important assets he brings is he's a good person who will do his best to do the right thing. A hard worker who is a quality person. Can't say enough positive things about Kellan. He has a bright future in our game.”
Mike Stauffer – scout for the Philadelphia Phillies
“Kellan has bloodlines of baseball background who sees the game in a different lens. His unique perspective and knowledge go beyond the baseball field. He is a confident evaluator who trusts his gut instincts. Good evaluators trust their own eyes, own instincts, and I trust his character more than anything.”
Tripp Price- Chapel Hill HS Head Wrestling Coach
“The thing that always impressed me about Kellan was his mental toughness and belief in himself. He was always prepared on match day. That showed in the Regional finals when he was tied with 20 seconds to go and cut his opponent to put his opponent up by one and then got the take down to win. We generally see him once a year around Thanksgiving. He comes in to talk to the kids.”
Jared Campbell- Chapel Hill HS teammate
“I feel like Kellan was one of the most mentally tough people I've been around. He was an excellent competitor, and always was able to find a way win. You could definitely tell he was going to be the type of person that was going to successful at whatever he pursued.”
In closing, and as it pertains to wrestling, I asked Kellan to provide a comment explaining how wrestling helped prepare him for his professional life. Here is his response:
“The sport of Wrestling prepared me for life after wrestling. Principles of discipline, work ethic, persistence, and toughness were instilled upon me without even knowing it at the time. This allowed me to excel when studying for long hours in law school and eventually taking and passing the bar exam. As an attorney and scout, the competitiveness I developed as a wrestler allows me to compete against opposing counsel or other MLB organizations. Also, as a scout, my experience as a wrestler has allowed me to better evaluate the makeup of players I scout and recommend for the MLB draft. The journey to the big leagues as a professional baseball player will likely be long and winding. The rate of failure is so high, the odds of becoming a major leaguer are very slim. As a result, most big leaguers are not only physically gifted, but mentally gifted as well. Failure and overcoming failure are something you will experience as a professional baseball player and wrestler. The qualities I developed in myself and see in my wrestler buddies are some of the qualities I look for in MLB prospects.”