Advertisement
  1. Rays

Seth McClung pursues a long-shot baseball comeback

Seth McClung visits with his 2-year-old daughter, Fallon, left, and 4-year-old daughter, Madison, following a spring training game in Dunedin.
Published Mar. 20, 2014

BRADENTON — Seth McClung jokes that players in the Pirates' minor-league complex called him "coach" this spring.

That's fairly true, as the former Rays right-hander has spent the past four seasons coaching high school girls basketball at Pinellas Park and Osceola. McClung, 33, said he actually identifies himself more as a basketball coach now than he does a baseball player, having not appeared in the majors since 2009.

But like on the basketball court, McClung wants to finish his baseball career with a buzzer-beater. It's is a long shot, with McClung released Wednesday by the Pirates, who brought him to camp on a minor-league deal. He hopes to land with another team, encouraged by how he performed this spring after he struck out the side against the Rays in his only big-league exhibition and scattered two hits in two minor-league games. Pitching for paychecks in Taiwan and Mexico last year reinvigorated his love for the game and a belief he can still play.

And McClung, used to being "daddy day care" for his daughters Madison, 4, and Fallon, 2, has one last wish: that they see him pitch in the big leagues.

"If it's over, it's over, I'm okay," McClung said. "I wanted to give it one more go. My ultimate goal was to make it to the major leagues and have my picture taken with my kids. … But I'm 33 years old. I understand there's an end to this."

•••

McClung began his career in Tampa Bay, having been drafted by the then-Devil Rays in the fifth round in 1999.

He was traded to Milwaukee in July 2007 for Grant Balfour, pitched parts of three seasons for the Brewers and finished his career 26-34 with a 5.46 ERA in 177 appearances. He pitched for three Triple-A teams from 2011-12.

McClung said he has grown since his Devil Rays days. He married longtime girlfriend Stephanie three years ago, and he watches their daughters often while his wife works as assistant finance director for the Charlie Crist gubernatorial campaign. "It's her time to shine," he said.

•••

After an interesting year split between Mexico and Taiwan, McClung sought out MLB general managers and scouts last fall via LinkedIn, asking if they would give him a chance.

In November, Pirates director of player personnel Tyrone Brooks offered an opportunity. Whether McClung gets another one could go a long way in a promise he made to his mother. Marky McClung has liver cirrhosis but is reticent about going through the painstaking transplant process. Mother and son made a deal: If he gets back to the majors, she'll get on the transplant list.

"I'm not willing to give up," McClung said. "And I don't want her to give up either."

Marky, who lives on a West Virginia farm, was in town a few weeks ago, bringing Madison and Fallon to watch their dad pitch in Dunedin against the Jays. Marky admits she's on "borrowed time" and wanted to see her granddaughters once more.

After the game, McClung brought his daughters out on the field and into the dugout. They took photos, him in his Pirates uniform, a moment McClung said "meant the world to me."

McClung hopes the next family portrait is in a major-league stadium, and he is willing to start in Class A if he has to. He said Rays manager Joe Maddon encouraged him to keep trying.

"How many males in this country or around the world can say the same thing — the big leagues, a girls basketball coach, come back and possibly pitch in the big leagues?" Maddon said. "That's pretty good stuff."

Marky smiled: "It'd be a miracle. But it can happen."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Nationals' Juan Soto hits a two-run double off Astros starter Gerrit Cole during the fifth inning of the World Series opener. Soto also hits a solo home run. ERIC GAY  |  AP
    Washington holds on for a 5-4 victory in Houston.
  2. Nicholas, a rescued bottlenose dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, made his World Series pick. Photo provided by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
    The Astros opened as the biggest World Series favorite in 12 seasons. But check out what’s going on poolside at Clearwater Marine Aquarium before making your bets.
  3. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer warms up during batting practice for baseball's World Series Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Houston. The Houston Astros face the Washington Nationals in Game 1 on Tuesday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) DAVID J. PHILLIP  |  AP
    Predictions from Marc Topkin, Martin Fennelly and John Romano.
  4. Karsyn Waechter, Riley Vigue and Avery Vigue are extending the athletic legacies of their fathers. Alissa Vigue, Special to the Times
    Doug Waechter and former Rays minor-leaguer are passing their love of the game on to their daughters and their teammates
  5. Between the potential of historic pitching matchups, the emergence of Juan Soto and the heroics of Jose Altuve, this Washington-Houston World Series has more going for it than the Vegas odds might suggest. MATT SLOCUM | AP Photo MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    The Astros are the heaviest favorites the World Series has seen since 2007. Still, there is reason to believe his Fall Classic has memorable moments ahead.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston talks to reporters after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. The Saints won 31-24. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) BUTCH DILL  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: What’s next for the Bucs, Astros-National World Series preview, the Lightning’s short-circuit start
  7. Davey Martinez gained valuable experience as a coach behind Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. But when Maddon exited, the Rays bypassed him for a "new voice," Kevin Cash. Tampa Bay Times
    After failing to land a half-dozen manager jobs, including with the Rays, Martinez and Nats ended up a good match.
  8. Jose Altuve prepares to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman leaves the field after giving up a walkoff two-run homer to the Astros second baseman in the ninth inning to win Game 6 of the AL Championship Series 6-4 on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The Astros win the series 4-2 and advance to the World Series to play the Washington Nationals. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    New York ties the ALCS Game 6 in the top of the ninth with a two-run HR before the diminutive second baseman wins it with a blast off Aroldis Chapman, putting Houston in the World Series.
  9. In 1968, slugger Frank Howard, known as the "Washington Monument," proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Washington Senators. AP
    The Nationals’ improbable postseason run rekindles memories of the woeful Washington Senators
  10. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, on left, along with Erik Neander, center, senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, and Chaim Bloom, senior vice president of baseball operations, address the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Research now, action to come as Rays get caught up after playoff run. Plus, TV rating info and rumblings.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement