Although his Steve Garvey, all-America kid image is often a target for dugout banter, West Springfield's Mark McMillan hasn't allowed it to distract from his success on the field.

Nor is the Spartans senior allowing disappointment that his high school baseball career ended sooner than expected -- West Springfield lost in the Northern District tournament -- overshadow his good memories.

"I just try to do the best I can," said the 6-foot right-hander who is a three-sport athlete and excels in the classroom with a 3.6 grade-point average. "I try to be a leader with my actions."

"He's the all-American kid," said West Springfield Coach Ron Tugwell. "He's got good baseball instincts and is so very coachable."

On a West Springfield team that finished 12-7, McMillan was 6-2, with a sparkling 0.94 ERA. He struck out 80, walked 28 and had a 12-strikeout, three-hit performance against Robinson. An outfielder when not pitching, McMillan hit over .300 for the third straight year (.310), with four home runs and 17 RBI.

McMillan primarily throws a fastball and change-up. He said his fastball was not as effective this year as in years past, but it proved to be beneficial in the long run. "It forced me to work on my other pitches," said McMillan. "I became a more complete pitcher as opposed to just a thrower."

An all-district selection for the second consecutive year in both baseball and football, he is also one of only four Northern Region players named to the 1986 all-state baseball team.

But he was disappointed in West Springfield's season. After a preseason trip to the Dominican Republic where the Spartans won both their games, including a 12-strikeout, one-hitter by McMillan over Calanz of Santa Domingo, West Springfield was favored to win the Northern District. But the dream was not to be realized.

Tugwell said defensive liabilities were the source of his team's problems. And after two straight district titles, McMillan acknowledged "maybe we thought we were better than we were. We had the potential to go much further, but potential by itself doesn't mean that much."

But his memories of 1986 will remain pleasant ones. "I think I loosened up some this year," he said. "I like being with the guys."

After a summer of Clark Griffith baseball, he will head to the University of Virginia where he will pitch for the Cavaliers. He considered William and Mary, George Washington and the Naval Academy and said it was tough to choose. "I was looking for a good combination of academics first, then baseball. I felt that all around, socially as well, UVA was the best choice."

McMillan realizes he'll have to continue to improve if he is to be successful in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but Tugwell has no doubt his three-year standout will do well. Asked to list McMillan's strengths and weaknesses Tugwell laughed and said, "I wish all my kids had his weaknesses."