Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interview Part 3: Brian McRae, Great Feeling

The Kauffman Stadium scoreboard before the Royals game July 6, 1993, with Brian McRae leading off and playing center field. That year in 1993 was the one where Brian McRae felt he had established himself in the majors. (G21D Photo)

Part 1: Call Up | Part 2: Added Pressure
Part 3: Great Feeling

Brian McRae arrived in Kansas City two hours before game time. In the lineup that night, he arrived at third base off his first major league hit, in his first major league at bat.

"Sliding into third base was a great feeling, something I'll never forget," McRae recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days. "But that whole first day was kind of a blur, because everything happened so fast."

McRae got the call up to the Royals that Aug. 7, 1990, after Bo Jackson went down with an injury. In one day, McRae jumped from AA Memphis, traveling from Huntsville, Alabama, through Atlanta and arriving at Kansas City for that night's game.

It wasn't until he arrived in Atlanta to change planes that McRae was able to contact anyone, getting through to his parents by payphone.

McRae spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his Kansas City-area home. McRae made the majors that August in his sixth season in pro ball. He was still, though, just 22 years old. McRae is now the general manager of the Kansas City Sluggers, a non-profit traveling youth baseball program.

His mother wasn't able to make it to Kansas City until the second game. His father, Hal McRae, then a coach with the Expos, had to try and find his son's debut on television.

Royals manager Hal McRae, far right dugout, manages the Royals at Kauffman Stadium July 6, 1993. (G21D Photo)

Soon, though, Hal McRae would be able to watch his son, named as manager of the Royals for 1991.

After growing up with his dad spending time either playing on the road or playing late into the evening, with the younger McRae making the team for 1991, the family was together again.

"It wasn't something our family was able to do for a long time," McRae said. "For four years with the Royals, the family was pretty much in the same place. We got to do a lot together."

It wasn't something they were able to do before that, McRae said.

Regarding actually being in the majors himself, McRae called that exciting "to be able to fulfill that dream."

McRae hit .286 in 46 games that first year in 1990, then .261 in a full season his second year. He hit .223 his third, in 1992.

It wasn't until 1993 that McRae said he felt like he had established himself in the majors. That year he hit .282, with 12 home runs.

"The first two years you're just trying to survive every day and make your mark," McRae said, "hope that you do enough so that they don't send you back."

McRae stayed with the Royals through the strike year of 1994. He signed with the Cubs for 1995. he called the breakup of the 1994 Royals team bittersweet.

He went on to play with the Cubs into 1997, then with the Mets through 1999. He tried to play through knee problems in 1999, but his problems worsened. His career was over by spring 2000, released out of spring training by the Cardinals.

After stints with ESPN and MLB.com, McRae has moved to coaching younger players. He is currently with the Kansas City Sluggers serving as general manager with the non-profit traveling youth baseball team.

For summer 2012, he's also serving as manager for the collegiate league Morehead City Marlins in North Carolina.

McRae said his experiences playing the game as a pro translate well to the younger athletes.

"I've been through pretty much everything they're going through," McRae said, "every situation, on and off the field."

Part 1: Call Up | Part 2: Added Pressure
Part 3: Great Feeling

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