LOWELL, MA– For the 2013 Lowell Spinners season, a new sign graces the right field corner at LeLacheur Park.
It pictures the logos of the Spinners and their parent Boston Red Sox with “The Road To Fenway” printed in the Red Sox’ recognizable font inbetween.
Many different media outlets approached pitcher Jack McGeary during Friday afternoon’s Spinners media day with that sign in mind. As he is a Newton, MA native, the only New Englander active with the Spinners this season, it is rightfully so.
He is surely hoping that the Mill City leads to Beantown, giving him the chance to play for his hometown team, but for right now, being in Lowell is the first step to that goal.
“It’s nice here,” McGeary opened. “I never really thought I’d be playing close to home, but it’s probably the nicest part about being here right now. I’ve been away for most of my life, so it was a pretty cool change-up for me.
“Now, I also get to bug my parents at home every now and then.”
Many “newbies” in the New York-Penn League are upstart professionals after their recent selections in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in the first week of June, but the 6-foot-3 lefty is in a unique position as a Red Sox pick in the minor league Rule 5 Draft this past winter.
“It was awesome to know someone else wants you,” McGeary commented about the exciting feeling of hearing the call to the Sox last December. “It’s kind of a bonus for the Red Sox, obviously, and I was not expecting it to happen at all. When I got that call, it was shocking but really, really exciting.”
Lowell pitching coach Walter Miranda, a veteran of the Red Sox system, spent the majority of Extended Spring Training with McGeary without knowing his deep connections to the region.
Now that the Spinners are fully assembled for Opening Day on Monday in Norwich, CT, the Colombian native, who is back for his third stint with Lowell, sees him as a more veteran presence among a young but talented pitching corps.
“He’s new to the organization, but we know his background – a former [high] pick by the Nationals. I know why because he has the talent. He’s a left-hander with a good arm and a big curveball.”
McGeary was originally called in the sixth round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals, the organization in which he spent his first six professional seasons.
He is hardly new to NYPL circles, having pitched for the Vermont Lake Monsters for parts of three years and the Auburn Doubledays in 2012, and remembers Lowell as a city that supports its baseball very well and allows for an exciting atmosphere.
The Nationals allowed him to fulfill a wish of attending school at Stanford University full-time in addition to his playing amongst four Washington affiliate teams at three different levels. It was a year-round grind on and off the field, but the opportunity to attend school – and ultimately graduate – was one he wanted. The chance was certainly unique and one many baseball players do not get.
“[The experience] was awesome,” McGeary said of his only previous parent club before moving over to the hometown team. “I have nothing but good things to say about them. They kept giving me a chance and hung onto me. … I still have a lot of friends there.”
An added struggle to his career path was dealing with a pair of arm injuries practically staggered on top of each other, forcing him out of the majority of 2010 and 2011.
“It’s tough, especially one on top of the other. I had the Tommy John … and then after that, I had some problems with my ribs. … It was obviously a setback I didn’t want to have to have, but at the same time, I was never worried about not coming back.”
Before signing with the Nationals, his local amateur story is also unique as a product of the Roxbury Latin School. The 2007 Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year says the “high school experience” was one that surely had a big influence in his career today.
“I loved it,” McGeary said. “Probably my best friends today are from there. Obviously, it’s not a real athletic-oriented school, but at the same time…you’re there for six years, so you form good friendships.”
Although RL is not exactly an athletic power, he still played with three Boston College Eagles – Kyle Prohovich, John Spatola, and Chris Kowalski – all New England natives and well-known figures in the region’s baseball circles. Spatola, a Milton, MA native, was a 2010 selection of the White Sox.
Now with the Sox, McGeary is excited to have a base of thousands of home fans for the first time in his veteran career. The LeLacheur crowd will be back in full force on Wednesday night when the Lowell Nine host Stedler Division rival Connecticut.
Miranda and the Spinner staff is sure he will be able to make an impact in some capacity this season. Now, the team is working with him on mechanical tendencies that will help him achieve more success as he climbs the ladder.
“Now that he’s healthy, we’re giving him the opportunity to develop because he is still young. He’s 24 years old. Because he lost all that time, we just want to help him with anything we can do.”
Although he is unsure which role he will fulfill for the Spinners, McGeary knows it is his first step to the Majors, and of course, to Fenway.
Feature Photo Credit: John Corneau/Lowell Spinners