Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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A few weeks ago, it was reported that retired NBA All-Star, Tracy McGrady, was looking to pursue a career in baseball as a pitcher. That’s right folks, the former NBA first round pick and sharpshooter has retired from one love and is attempting to pursue another, in just a matter of months.
When I first heard about this story, I didn’t pay it much mind. We have seen many athletes attempt different sports from their most notable in the past and it just didn’t work out. Heck, look what happened when Michael Jordan tried to play professional baseball! It didn’t go so well in Birmingham, so he went back to the Chicago Bulls. I figured that T-Mac would just be another sports transitioning hopeful, but with one simple invitation from the Sugar Land Skeeters, Mr. McGrady has earned his biggest shot of all.
Just a few days ago, the Sugar Land Skeeters, who are an independent-league baseball team in Texas, invited McGrady to spring training giving him a chance to earn a spot on the team. Many two-sport athletes have went on to have successful baseball careers in the past like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, but none of them have done what McGrady plans to do.
Since he retired from the game of basketball, McGrady has been working with none other than former World Series champion and Cy Young Award winner, Roger Clemens, on his pitching game. McGrady played baseball and was a successful pitcher up until his senior year in high school when he transferred to a school that made basketball a top priority, but that wasn’t enough to make him professional baseball material.
Clemens, who played for the Skeeters back in 2012, has been working with McGrady on his mechanics, release and velocity over the last few months at the Sugar Land facilities. His consistent training and a reported 87 MPH fastball has allowed the Skeeters to witness first hand the progression that the 34 year-old right-hander has been able to make. That progression has earned him a spot in spring training, and if all goes well, maybe even a spot on the opening day roster.
Some people may think that the Skeeters only invited McGrady as a publicity stunt to sell more tickets, and if so, I applaud them! Half of the battle of independent and minor league baseball is putting butts in the seats, and in all honesty, who isn’t going to come to the ballpark to see a former NBA superstar take the hill? This marriage is absolutely perfect for both parties because it allows McGrady to pursue his dream of professional baseball and it gives the Skeeters guaranteed publicity as well as a 6’8” presence on the mound that can already bring almost 90 MPH. If you think height means nothing for a pitcher, ask the entire league what it felt like going up against 6’11” Randy Johnson, not fun.
McGrady could’ve easily used his name alone to catch on with some big league spring training roster, but he didn’t. He legitimately loves the game of baseball and knew that if he started out at one of the lower levels, it would only help him rather than hurt him. In the past, the independent league has helped revive the careers of Scott Kazmir and Manny Ramirez, and if all goes as planned for T-Mac, it could help get his started.