Tracy McGrady Had a ‘Secret’ Baseball Career, Won a Home Run Derby, and Retired After Striking Out an All-Star
While the late 1990s and early 2000s saw plenty of talented NBA players hit the hardwood, few were more dynamic than Tracy McGrady. While the Florida native never had much success in the postseason, he was a singularly exciting talent. He’s most remembered as an elite scorer, but T-Mac could do it all; he was comfortable driving to the rim, pulling up for a three, facilitating for his teammates, and stepping up on the defensive end in key spots.
But, even with all those skills, did you know that McGrady always loved baseball and dreamed of hitting the diamond?
And while he didn’t pull a Michael Jordan and play baseball during his NBA career, the 6-foot-8 star did manage to make his dream come true. In retirement, he had a “secret” second career that sounds like something out of a sitcom.
Let’s check it out.
Tracy McGrady briefly played Atlantic League baseball and built up an impressive-sounding resume
While true two-sport athletes are rare — playing multiple sports at a high level at the same time is an incredible physical and logistical challenge — plenty of pros love a sport other than the one where they earn their salary. Consider Tracy McGrady as an example of that.
McGrady, of course, made a name for himself on the NBA hardwood. As he told Kevin Garnett in a Youtube video titled “T-Mac Reveals His SECRET Baseball Career,” the small forward never forgot about his love for America’s pastime.
“I started baseball at five,” the former Orlando Magic star explained. “I played all the way up to my junior year in high school. The reason I ain’t play, continue baseball, is cause when I transferred to my school in North Carolina, we didn’t have a baseball team. It was strictly basketball. But yeah, baseball is my love. And even when I was playing in the league, I was trying to figure out a way to play minor league baseball.”
In retirement, McGrady had the chance to make his dream come true. He joined the franchise known as the Sugar Land Skeeters and suited up for some Atlantic League action (the franchise is now called the Sugar Land Space Cowboys and has become the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros).
“So I went out, I think it was like 2013, and tried out, made the team, and played,” T-Mac told Garnett. “Yeah, so I played like 70 games, man.”
And while we can take issue with the use of the word “secret” — there are plenty of write-ups about McGrady’s baseball career, and it’s hard to imagine a team in Texas wouldn’t have been promoting the presence of a former Houston Rocket on their roster — the NBA veteran did put together an impressive-sounding resume.
Sounding, however, is the key word.
McGrady did make the All-Star Game, but it’s safe to assume that he was only there since the Skeeters were hosting the event. He won the Home Run Derby, but, as documented in a 2014 Bleacher Report story, he didn’t hit a single ball out of the park. He partnered with Lamar Little Leaguer Will Dolan, who belted all six of the duo’s homers. McGrady, it seems, referred to himself as the “first Home Run Derby champion in history with no home runs.”
Then, in the All-Star Game itself, T-Mac took the mound as the starting pitcher. He pitched 1.1 innings and, after fanning a batter in the top of the second, called it a career.
“I started the All-Star Game, struck a guy out, and walked off the field,” he told Garnett.
At the time, though, McGrady did provide a bit more context about his decision.
“That is definitely going in the trophy case,” the NBA star said, according to a CBS Sports story. “I told some of the guys that I am going to get a strikeout before I stop playing. I got it in the second inning. Thank you, Jesus.”
And remember how I insisted that McGrady’s resume sounded more impressive than it actually was? Well, let’s consider his regular season stats.
As a pitcher, T-Mac took the mound for four games. He went 0-2, posting a 6.75 ERA. On a positive note, he only allowed four hits, but he did walk 10 batters and hit one with a pitch over 6.2 total innings.
To be clear, that’s not an attempt to throw shade at or otherwise belittle McGrady’s baseball career. He got the chance to follow through on his childhood love and hung in there with the pros despite spending most of his adult life playing a different sport.
And, if anything, the way things unfolded makes for a much better story. Tracy McGrady may have made seven NBA All-Star games, but no one of those featured winning a contest without accomplishing the titular feat or a mid-game retirement.