Former NBA all-star Tracy McGrady always dreamed of playing professional baseball. On Saturday night, that dream became a reality as the now 34-year-old right-handed pitcher made his debut for the Sugar Land Skeeters during their independent Atlantic League game against the Somerset Patriots.
McGrady was given the starting assignment by Skeeters manager and former major leaguer Gary Gaetti, but was still held on a strict pitch count. He ended up throwing 35 pitches (18 strikes) and lasted one and two-thirds innings. The Patriots touched him up for one run in the first inning on one hit, two walks and a wild pitch. Former Houston Astros shortstop Edwin Maysonet then connected for a home run in the second, which effectively ended McGrady's evening.
His final line: 1 2/3 innings pitched, two runs, two hits, two walks and no strikeouts.
The outing certainly had its high and lows. This pitch here had some particularly downward action. This pitch, not so much.
All in all, though, it would have to be considered well above a disaster and perhaps even close to a success given that McGrady only really cranked up his workouts back in January. It's reported McGrady spent time working out with Roger Clemens at that time. Clemens' son, Koby, was McGrady's catcher on Saturday.
McGrady made one other appearance in an exhibition game back in April before being named to the opening day roster on April 23. The team held off on his debut, likely to continue working with him on mechanics and to build arm strength. Those will be key issues if he intends on making pitching a regular gig. But just the fact that McGrady was out there and mostly competitive is admirable. It's independent ball, sure, but he didn't exactly embarrass himself.
Obviously, whether or not there is an actual future for McGrady in independent ball or otherwise is still to be determined. The only way that can be answered is with more experience and, more importantly, repetition. As long as he sticks with it, we'll keep you updated on his progress.
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