Former NBA all-star Tracy McGrady, who is now pursuing his childhood dream to play professional baseball, was officially named to the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters opening day roster on Wednesday. Team manager and former major leaguer Gary Gaetti confirmed the news to Fox 26 in Houston, stating that McGrady has done everything necessary to earn his roster spot and will open the season as one of his pitchers.
"Tracy is on the team," Gaetti said. "He's just done what needed to be done since the idea came about.
"He showed enough progress. He showed enough ability and we're going to see where this goes."
The 34-year-old right-hander made one appearance in an exhibition game last week against Alvin Community College, allowing one run on three hits in one inning of work. McGrady was the only Skeeters pitcher scored upon in the game, but Gaetti insists he's shown enough in workouts — including a fastball that has touched 90 mph — to suggest he can contribute moving forward.
"There's so many unique things about it," Gaetti said. "It doesn't matter how hard you throw.
"You got deception. You got velocity. You got location. You got stuff."
"I had to ride it out," Gaetti added. "There was no reason to make that decision until I absolutely had to."
Gaetti had until Thursday to set his opening day roster, so it truly was a last day decision. It suggests they did put some baseball thought into the decision and didn't just add McGrady because of his story or the fact that he'll be an attraction both at home and on the road. Obviously, that had to have some influence on the move as well.
The Skeeters issued a press release on Wednesday announcing the club had signed McGrady to a contract. In it, McGrady commented on what his inclusion on their roster means to him personally.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this club for the 2014 season,” said McGrady. “To be a part of the team means everything to me and it’s a dream come true. I look forward to coming to the ballpark not only to play the game but to be in the clubhouse building camaraderie with these guys. I am excited to start the journey we’re going to take this season.”
As we've noted throughout the process, at 34, it's unlikely McGrady will be able to advance past independent ball even in a best case scenario, but just the fact he's living out a dream makes it a feel-good story. And who knows, maybe he'll surprise us and make a truly memorable run.
Either way, we'll be following McGrady as his journey continues in the coming weeks and months.
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