The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 22, 2013

Brian McRae sets sights on coaching

By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. — Brian McRae has his sights set on a career as a college baseball head coach.

McRae, a former outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, was in Baxter Springs last week as an assistant coach for the Kansas City Sluggers in the Premier Baseball Junior Championship tournament.

McRae began his college coaching career as an assistant last spring for Park University, an NAIA school at Parkville, Mo., in suburban Kansas City.

“It has been a fun summer,” McRae said before the Sluggers’ game Saturday against the Texas Lions at Field of Dreams. “I want to eventually get a shot at being a head coach on the college level.”

McRae bypassed college when he was selected by the Royals in the first round of the 1985 amateur draft out of Blue Springs (Mo.) High School.

As a 22-year-old rookie for Kansas City in 1990, McRae played in 46 games and batted .286. His best season with the Royals was in 1993, when he batted .282 in 153 games with 12 home runs and 23 stolen bases.

He played 10 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Royals, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays. He batted .261 in his career with 103 home runs, 532 RBIs and 196 stolen bases.

McRae said he enjoyed the travel and the time spent with fellow players during his Major League career. “The thing I miss the most is the camaraderie with my teammates,” he said. “At home, everybody kind of did their own thing. On the road, you get to spend more time with your teammates and check out different restaurants.”

McRae’s experience with the Premier Baseball Junior Championship tournament began in 2008. “The amount of eyes on the kids, I don’t think there’s anything like it in the Midwest,” he said. “There are upward of 200 college coaches. You can see everybody you want to see within an hour’s drive.

“From a kid’s perspective, you see some (NCAA) Division I kids on the field and you might temper down your expectations of where you can play college ball.”

In addition to coaching, McRae is a student at Park as he works toward a college degree. “That’s what’s keeping me from getting interviews for a head coach at four-year schools,” he said.

Largest field of teams

The 50-team field in the 2013 Premier Baseball Junior Championship was the largest ever, said tournament director Don Patty.

Four teams — No. 1 seed Houston Kyle Chapman Blue, No. 2 seed Columbia Angels, No. 4 seed Austin Wings Black and No. 6 seed LIDS Indiana Bulls Black — advanced to the semifinals.

“We’re about maxed out,” Patty said. “We need to get down to 48 teams, a symmetrical number. Fieldwise, we’re OK, but we’re about to outgrow the motel situation.”

The semifinals and championship game scheduled for Sunday at Joe Becker Stadium were canceled because of rain and wet grounds. All four quarterfinal games Saturday night were suspended because of rain and lightning.

“We had the New England team this year that was new,” he said. “We picked up a couple of Arkansas teams and teams from Oklahoma and Colorado.

“Our thing is that we have to turn so many people away,” Patty said. “The Canadians didn’t get to come in because it had something to do with Team Canada tryouts.”

The Premier Baseball Junior Championship was held in Joplin for the first time in 2005. Among the players that year were current Major Leaguers Lance Lynn of the St. Louis Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It seems like coming home when we come here,” Patty said. “It has been nine years since we’ve been coming up.”