NYPL notes: McGrath on unique path

Australian-born left-hander reconnecting in Red Sox Nation

Daniel McGrath signed with the Red Sox at the age of 17. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

By Craig Forde / Special to MiLB.com | August 2, 2013 6:00 AM

Daniel McGrath is more than 10,000 miles from home, but Lowell, Mass., isn't far from familiarity for the 19-year-old lefty from Templestowe, Australia.

Just before his love of baseball blossomed as a youngster, McGrath spent two years of his life living in Boston with his parents from age 4 to 6 -- just 30 miles from where he now plays out his dream.

More than a decade later, at age 17, his journey to return to Boston began when he signed with the team that his mother, Dale, grew up rooting for on Cape Cod with her friends.

"It was unreal when you think about it," said McGrath. "It was kind of like a book. Mom grew up watching [the Red Sox], and now I've signed with them. It's pretty awesome."

It was Feb. 7, 2012, when McGrath put ink to paper, and although he was only 17, he had a reputation and resume that commanded a $400,000 signing bonus as Boston competed with nearly 15 other clubs for his services.

He played three seasons with the Melbourne Aces from 2010-12, making 23 appearances out of the bullpen while earning valuable experience in the fledgling Australian Baseball League.

McGrath traveled to places like Taiwan, South Korea and Canada in stints with Australia's U17 and U19 squads and even played as part of the National Team in an exhibition against the ABL's Sydney Blue Sox.

"In the Australian Baseball League, I played with [Astros pitcher and fellow Aussie] Travis Blackley and pitched against a couple former big league players," said McGrath. "Baseball is really growing [in Australia]."

He embarked on his journey to become a professional baseball player in America earlier this year, breaking in with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Red Sox, where he dazzled with a low-90s fastball that he sets up with a confident circle-change.

In four GCL starts, he allowed just three runs and struck out 30 in 20 innings to earn a promotion to Lowell, where he is learning that he needs to rely more on spotting his fastball.

"When I was down in Rookie ball, I tended to work off the off-speed stuff more," said McGrath. "There are a lot more free swingers, and you can get off-speed by them.

"Up here, I've been using my fastball a lot more than I have all year. The guys up here will sit on off-speed stuff compared to the free swingers."

In two starts with Lowell, the patient hitters have gotten the upper-hand on McGrath, who's yielded five runs on 12 hits over two starts. Still, he's struck out nine and walked only one in his 9 2/3 innings with Lowell, and he's making tweaks along the way that he feels are already paying dividends.

"I tend to fall forward a little bit -- I rush the plate," said McGrath. "Glove side, I tend to open up a little, so when I keep that in control and stay down toward the plate, it helps me a lot with rushing forward."

He's also adjusting to life as a starter after being primarily a reliever in Australia.

"One inning is a lot different than trying to get through five or six innings with these guys," said McGrath. "Hitters make adjustments per at-bat rather than once a week. That's a big difference."

Working hard at his trade keeps him from missing the creature comforts at home, and when he's away from the field he keeps from getting homesick with some online streaming of cricket and Aussie rules matches from back home.

Having ties to Eastern Massachusetts also helps to keep McGrath motivated, especially being so close to where he someday hopes to be, back in a city he once called home.

With one month left in the season, he's eager to finish strong and is looking forward to returning to his native Australia when it wraps up.

And while the fine folks of Lowell are shoveling snow from their driveways, he will benefit from something that being back in the region can't provide.

"I'll have both summers," McGrath said with a gleam in his eye. "Mom got a new beach house, so I'll be there for a few weeks."

But he'll be looking to get back to Boston as soon as possible.

In brief

Banner month for Monsters: With a 5-2 win over Hudson Valley on Wednesday, the Vermont Lake Monsters finished July with an 18-13 record, one win shy of their July record set in 1995 when they went 19-11. They've won 18 games in July on two other occasions: 1996 and 2007. After a 5-8 June, the Lake Monsters find themselves just two games back in the Wild Card race.

Callahan cranks it up: Lowell right-hander Jamie Callahan, the reigning NYPL Pitcher of the Week, spun six perfect innings against Auburn on Wednesday. In his last two starts, he is 2-0 with only one hit allowed while striking out 17 over 12 innings. A second-round selection by Boston in 2012, Callahan, the youngest player in the league, is 3-1 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in seven starts.

Herrera or there: A deadline deal in which the Cardinals traded left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the Indians came with a quirky side note pointed out by the crack media relations staff in State College. Infielder Juan Herrera, whom St. Louis received in return, was assigned to the Spikes and became the first player to play against and for the club in the same season. Herrera, who batted .275 in 39 games for Mahoning Valley and .259 in the eight contests against State College, went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored Wednesday in his Spikes debut.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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