McRae's pro baseball journey begins in Pirates organization
Former Eisenhower pitcher's path went through Jacksonville
Even with six overall Player of the Year honors during his senior season at New Berlin Eisenhower, Alex McRae still had a long journey ahead to make it to professional baseball.
As a senior, McRae was named the WBCA Player of the Year, unanimous district Player of the Year and unanimous conference Player of the Year among many other honors, including NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Player of the Year. During Alex's senior season, he had a 12-0 record with a minuscule 0.72 ERA and eight complete games. When he wasn't pitching, McRae was helping on the offensive side of the plate, batting .430 with 31 RBIs and five home runs.
"We anticipated the draft out of high school," said his dad, Pat McRae. "The Pirates actually contacted him out of high school. A number of teams had, but the Pirates were pretty interested."
The Pirates found him eventually, drafting him out of Jacksonville University in the 10th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. McRae is officially on the path to the Major Leagues.
Path to the draft
McRae participated on AAU baseball teams, the Wisconsin Wildcats and the Racine Hitters, where he got an opportunity to play against talented players and show college scouts that he was capable of at a high level.
"He played on a lot of different levels and he was always playing with very select teams," Pat said. "So, you could compare him to other teams and see that he had (the ability). I would guess that probably in high school, we thought that he had a pretty good chance."
McRae was ranked in the top 1,000 prospects coming out of high school by Perfect Game USA. Through the years of the MLB Draft, around 30 percent of the players who get drafted by MLB teams are from high school. In 2011, Alex was not one of those players and went to college to hone his craft and show scouts that he had the ability to play.
"It was nice that he was able to go to college," said Pat. "He got a pretty good scholarship, played for three years there, got some experience, put on a little bit of weight and learned how to be away from home."
"(Jacksonville University) was a good program coming in," Alex said. "I know we struggled a little bit when I was there, but it was a good program. I really like the coaches, and the Florida weather definitely helped a little."
Alex chose Jacksonville University because he already had a friend there, plus in Florida he would receive more exposure to scouts than if he stayed in the Midwest.
Alex continued to play as a utility player at Jacksonville until he entered his junior year. As a freshman, Alex was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team. He led the pitching staff with a 3.43 ERA while finishing second on the team in innings pitched, strikeouts and opponent's batting average.
In his sophomore season, Alex was the No. 2 pitcher behind future first-round draft pick Chris Anderson. Anderson was able to impart his knowledge to McRae when he came back to Jacksonville after his first season in the minors.
"He helped me a lot," said Alex. "After he got drafted and he came back this year after playing a year in the minors, he learned a lot. When he came back, he gave me some tips that helped me."
Alex was poised to take over the top pitching spot from Anderson and as such focused solely as a pitcher for his junior year at Jacksonville. Coming into the season, he was ranked as the fourth best potential draft pick out of the Atlantic Sun by Baseball America. However, he was not able to perform up to the previous standards. Alex did lead the staff with 69 strikeouts and 87.2 innings, but he posted a career -worst 6.06 ERA.
"I think it was just going through the whole draft process and worrying about moving on and getting drafted," Alex said. "I was just putting a lot of pressure on myself. I was just too stressed out instead of going out and enjoying what could have been my last year. I should have just enjoyed it and not worry about the whole draft process, because it just ended up hurting me."
"Every team contacted Alex, except for one," Pat said.
The one team that did not contact Alex about the draft was the hometown Milwaukee Brewers. Despite not knowing who was going to draft him or when he was going to get drafted, it was obvious teams were interested as long as his signability was appropriate.
Wherever Alex ended up, he knew that it would continue to be documented by his grandmother. His grandmother compiles a book of every story that has featured Alex throughout his years in baseball.
"Both of my grandmas are really supportive," Alex said. "They're always watching and those books are pretty big, and she put a lot of work into those. That's pretty awesome, and I'll have those forever."
He started to hear from the Pirates, who suggested he could be taken as early as the fifth round, but he was surprised when he heard from them in the 10th round.
"Every pick and every round that goes by, you just get more nervous and more stressed out," Alex said. "But, when it happened it was definitely very exciting and it was pretty fun."
Alex, who is with the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League, said that he is more relaxed and confident on the mound now that he doesn't have to worry about what scouts are saying and where he is going to be drafted. He said that he is now focused on having fun and improving.
"I just was to keep performing as well as I am right now," said Alex. "Just keep getting better and learning stuff. Just keep improving my game."
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