Minor League Baseball has a reputation for zany promotions and attention grabbing publicity maneuvers. The unusual can be expected. Fun is the objective.
After 12 years of working in minor league baseball my “shock value” is lower than most sports fans. However even I must admit I was a little surprised when I stopped at Constellation Field in Sugar Land last week.
“You just missed T-Mac,” I was told by a Skeeters employee.
“As in Tracy McGrady?” I asked. “What is he doing here?”
Oh dear. I didn’t see that one coming.
McGrady confirmed his interest Wednesday with a post on his Facebook page.
“As some of you may have heard, I have been practicing with the Sugar Land Skeeters and working out at Constellation Field,” he wrote. “It has been a longtime childhood dream to play baseball and for the past few months I have worked on my pitching with the team. Don’t yet know where this will go but I do know I am having a great time and throwing pretty well. Love the game of baseball and always wanted to give it a try. Feels like I am a kid again, playing a sport for the pure love of the game.”
That part is true. Atlantic League salaries are usually in the neighborhood of a couple thousand dollars a month. Several players stay with host families in the Sugar Land area to make ends meet. T-Mac won’t have those concerns.
McGrady also tweeted Wednesday. “Been working out at Constellation Field w Sugar Land Skeeters. Working on my pitch. Childhood Dream coming true.”
T-Mac might want to work on his pitches instead of his pitch, but what the heck. Remember the “fun” part of independent baseball? This does sound like fun.
The Skeeters released a statement Wednesday saying, “Tracy McGrady is one of the most elite athletes of this era and we appreciate his interest in pursuing a life- long dream with the Sugar Land Skeeters and the Atlantic League. While the Atlantic League is considered the highest level of baseball outside of Major League Baseball, McGrady has demonstrated skill, determination and diligence during his training program at Constellation Field. We look forward to monitoring his progress.”
McGrady also has some pretty good coaching, including seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens who pitched for the team two years ago at the age of 50. That also fell under the “fun” category. The “Rocket” told KIRV-TV that McGrady was throwing in the low 80’s and was working on location and “trying to repeat his delivery.”
The 34-year old McGrady has some time on his side. The Skeeters don’t begin play until April 24th. McGrady spent six years with the Rockets during his NBA career and retired with more than 18,000 points scored.
Whether or not he adds some strikeout totals to his athletic resume is yet to be determined, however knowing the minor leagues as I do, and no Astros jokes inserted here please, I wouldn’t bet against seeing him on the mound come April.
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