Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Josh McElwee has traveled more than 6,000 miles in the last four months to return to South Carolina to play minor league baseball.
The 2007 Andrews High School graduate was drafted by the Texas Rangers in June 2012, a month after graduating from Newberry College. After a stint with Spokane (Wash.) Indians, he finished the 2012 season with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
“Last year was a lot of feeling my way through it and figuring out how it works and trying to see what I needed to do to try and improve and not really knowing where I needed to be and what I needed to do,” McElwee said.
He started this season with the Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads and struggled for about a month.
“I got a little mixed up in spring training,” McElwee said. “My feel wasn’t there. I wasn’t feeling right. My fastball wasn’t the same. It was same velocity, it just wasn’t coming out the same. I got hit around pretty good.”
McElwee left the Crawdads and returned to the Rangers’ spring training facility in Arizona to work with the pitching coaches there.
“I worked with those guys, they got me back right,” McElwee said
McElwee then went to Spokane for about three weeks before being sent to Myrtle Beach.
“I pitched well there, everything felt like it was back to normal and now I’m here,” he said. “It’s nice to back. I feel better. Things are looking good.”
He’s happy to be less than an hour from his family and friends in Andrews.
“It’s awesome playing here in Myrtle Beach. I get a good turnout just about every night. Friends and family come to the game. … I’m really grateful and thankful that everyone’s coming out and watching me. The first time I pitched at home this year, people I hadn’t seen in years happened to be here because of International Paper night and they saw me out there. They probably didn’t even know I was on the team.”
On days when there is a night game that starts at 7 p.m., McElwee arrives at the park around 2 and is stretching, running and throwing on the field by 3. The Pelicans take batting practice at 4 p.m. and pitchers patrol the outfield shagging fly balls.
Dinner starts around 5:15 p.m., and then McElwee showers and puts his uniform on.
“When I get out of the shower it’s time to strap it on and get ready,” he said.
The entire team is out on the field for warmups by 6:30 p.m., and lined up along the baseline for the National Anthem at 7.
As a relief pitcher, McElwee sometimes spends hours in the bullpen before he sees any action. At the Pelicans’ home field there is a deck situated above the bullpen in right field where the relievers can sit and watch the game.
“You’ve always got to be ready down there because if one day [the manager] calls and you’re not fully ready mentally and physically, you get out there and it shows,” McElwee said. “It’s hard to hide that.”
The Pelicans have 13 pitchers on the roster, five starters and eight relievers.
When McElwee was drafted he was told he would be a reliever. It was an adjustment for him after being a starter in high school and college.
“Your body has to get used to getting ready quicker,” McElwee said. “The phone rings and you could be in the game in five minutes. You’ve just got to kind of have a feel for how many days it’s been since you pitched, or if you’re on the list to pitch [that] night.”
After a rough start to the season, McElwee’s goal is to finish strong.
“I started out shaky, but I made some adjustments and I want to finish strong,” he said. “I don’t have any goals … like, I want to move up or I want to be in the big leagues or anything like that.”
It’s a “what have you done for me lately?” world, McElwee added.
“If you pitch really bad at the beginning of the season they don’t really remember that when you’re pitching really good at the end. Or vice versa. You always want to finish strong to give them something to think about in the offseason when they’re making changes.”
As a little boy, McElwee dreamed about being a professional baseball player and making “millions and millions of dollars” and not having any worries. The reality is a little different, so far.
“It’s a job now,” he said. “The game changes a little bit, but if you let it change a whole lot on you and it becomes a real job and you don’t enjoy coming out here then that’s when people start falling off. I try to enjoy it every day and I’m thankful to be out here.”
But he still loves it.
“I love playing baseball every day. It’s the best job in the world. You can’t beat it.”
For more information, go to www.milb.com and search for Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
By Chris Sokoloski