It’s every athletes dream to end up on SportsCenter for making an incredible leaping catch, a hole-in-one, or a slam dunk. Others earn this feat in different fashions.
It was September 10th, 2011, James Madison High School was playing Arlington powerhouse Yorktown in a varsity football regular season matchup. It’s the third quarter as Yorktown kicker Mike Dola is kicking off following a Patriots touchdown. The ball is booted, sophomore Andy McGuire pedals backwards, where he catches the ball turns around and smack, right into the field goal post. McGuire held on to the ball but could not stay on his feet, finding himself on SportsCenter’s not-top-10, the next day. This was not McGuire’s ideal first appearance on SportsCenter, but it also would not be his last.
It was later that year, the sophomore out of Vienna, Va, committed to play college baseball at the University of Texas. Committing to play Division I baseball is a monumental accomplishment for anyone, but Texas is not your standard program. Known for their continued success in the College World Series, the Longhorns are regarded as one of the biggest baseball powerhouses. With McGuire’s commitment to the program, he became the first Virginia native to commit to play for the university. After officially signing with UT, McGuire was back in the public eye and this time, for the right reason. With great responsibility, came great pressure for the then 16-year old.
“While I was still in high school, after my commitment, my whole focus was just to stay healthy,” said McGuire. “I was trying to live up to the expectations people had for me. It was a lot, there was a lot of added pressure on me then, just a kid.”
It was in the Fall of 2013 that McGuire embarked on his journey to Texas, no longer a high school phenom, time to prove his ‘hype’ after the years in the spotlight.
Upon arrival at Texas, Andy was no longer the kid from Northern Virginia who everybody knew. Yes, he was the top recruit in his class, but as he described it, he was, “just an out-of-state guy, surrounded by talent. Nobody cared where I was from, just that I could play.”
McGuire knew that just because he was the top recruit, and so highly touted, he was not going to receive any preferential treatment, nothing was going to be handed to him. There were dozens of guys, all competing for the same spots, on a fully-loaded roster. He began to feel the pressure early, earning a starting spot nearly fresh out the gate.
In his freshman season, the level of competition truly showed its face for the 18-year old. In 22 games played that year, all in which he started at third base and as designated hitter, McGuire batted just .113. In his first year, with a total of 71 at-bats, he had just eight hits compared to fourteen strikeouts. “In high school, it was easy. You go out, you get two hits like it was nothing. Then you go home, go to sleep and do it all over again the next day,” McGuire said. “College baseball was not like that. There were a lot of people in the stands and people watching you at home. The pressure was on and we were expected to produce at all times.” After a full year of disappointment, and a lot of self-inflicted pressure, the issues began to pile on. Surgery on his knee took place that summer, as they had to remove a large piece of bone that was blocking the flow of blood. After months of rehab, McGuire was forced to sit out from fall ball which he could only describe as a, “huge setback.”
After a season of disappointing numbers at the plate, and an injury forcing him to sit out from much needed Fall work, McGuire found himself in a rut in terms of mental preparation for the upcoming season. It was around this time that things continued to spiral in a downward trend for the rising sophomore. When he returned from rehab to meet with the coaching staff, he was informed that he would be moved to a pitcher only role. This was confusing for him at the moment, he had pitched a bit in high school, but was the top recruit in his entire class as an infielder, how could he just be moved like that he wondered.
During his sophomore season, the now converted pitcher did not see much playing time, serving as more of a “mop-up” role in the bullpen. He appeared in 13 games, pitching just a total of 12 innings, and finished with an ERA of 5.25. McGuire went from one of the more highly touted infield prospects, to a lost-in-the-mix bullpen pitcher. He was hurt, confused and frustrated, his morale was at an all time low. Despite being upset with his role during his sophomore campaign, McGuire described his friends and family as, “super helpful and supportive through a tough time.” Andy even acknowledged his coaching staff as very helpful through the down year, but felt as though they did not see eye-to-eye on the situation and his development at the time.
It was that summer that McGuire was faced with a tough decision. He had used up two years of eligibility and had barely anything to show for it. In college baseball, a player’s junior season is the premium time period when scouts truly start to analyze the numbers, and recognize the collegiate talent they would like to bring to the next level. Andy knew that he had nearly nothing compiled for them. It was at that point when he decided it was in his best interest to reach out to a number of different programs and see if he was able to start fresh somewhere. He spent his time reaching out to a number of Division I programs, but would be forced to sit out for the year due to the transfer rules. After failed Division I missions, he agreed to attend Division II University of South Carolina-Aiken, a program in the Peach Belt Conference.
Despite transferring, McGuire spent a grand total of three weeks at USC-Aiken, where he attended just one team workout and was playing shortstop. Despite the little time there, he believed he found his groove back and was mentally ready to return to being the successful player he knew he could be. He transferred back to the University of Texas, a move in which he described had nothing to do with baseball. The next few months, the roller coaster ride continued for McGuire. He was not on the team upon his return and was taking just a few classes online while sleeping on a friends couch. While not being where he wanted in terms of baseball, he was back to where he wanted to be physically, at Texas. In Spring of 2016 he returned to regular classes, completely enrolled full-time again at the university.
There was a coaching change that following season and McGuire was ready to return to the diamond which had brought him across the country. It was in that meeting with the new staff that they informed Andy that a number of transfers were being brought over from various powerhouse schools along with a strong freshman class and that earning a spot on the team would be difficult for him. “I really appreciated their honesty,” Andy said. “They could have got my hopes up and I could have been a lot more disappointed than I was.” He worked hard all fall to get back and prove them wrong. Though, the coaching staffs honesty proved true, as McGuire did in fact not earn a spot on the roster that season.
It was the following summer, after the 2017 season that he chose to reach back out to head coach, David Pierce and let him know where he was physically and mentally, that he was ready to take a shot at returning again. The meeting this go-around went a lot better for McGuire, as Pierce and the staff informed him that they had a better handle on the program and would love for him to come back out and fight for a spot. “I killed it that fall ball,” McGuire said. “After my strong fall ball play, it just took off from there and they let me know that I could play anywhere I wanted. They just wanted me on the team again.” It was the kind of news and confidence boost he needed after the two-year baseball hiatus.
In the Spring of 2018, accredited as a redshirt junior, McGuire was officially back on the roster and ready to make an impact for the powerhouse program. Throughout the season, he was used in a number of different roles, truly showcasing his true versatility. Now number 43, he found himself in the outfield, as well as the infield and on the mound. A true two-way player. He was going to be on the field one way or another, regardless of the position.
Going into the season, of the 35 players on the roster, 21 of them were brand new to the team. This included transfer players, incoming freshman, players who had taken years off due to injuries and everything in-between. “It was crazy, all we could think about was how are we going to get this team to work together,” said McGuire.
Through the first 18 games of the season, the Longhorns had a .500 record of 9-9 and knew they had to do something fast if they wanted to have a successful season. Then, everything just clicked for McGuire and his teammates and the entire lineup started producing at an insanely high rate. The Longhorns went on a huge run, gaining their confidence back, and winning some huge games en route to winning the Big 12 outright. They eventually advanced to Omaha and the College World Series, which McGuire described as, “truly an unbelievable experience, an absolute dream come true.” Texas would go on to lose in the quarterfinals to the eventual runner-up, the Florida Gators. Throughout the tournament, McGuire was used mainly a pitcher, receiving just one single at-bat, but truly an experience like no other he continuously reiterated.
Not only had the team received it’s confidence back, but so had the kid out of Vienna, Virginia. After a back and forth couple of years, he had finally had the collegiate season he had dreamt of. In 26 pitching appearances, the redshirt-junior had an outstanding 2.03 ERA and a team leading seven saves. At the plate, McGuire contributed continuously as well, with a .263 batting average, two home runs, and not a single error in the field. He became the versatile player the coaching staff had told him he could be earlier that season.
After a year of success for McGuire, and strong perseverance through the years of physical and mental battles, he found himself a topic of discussion by a number of major league programs.
On June 6, the cinderella story continued. In the twenty-eighth round, the 836th pick overall, the comeback kid was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. He was drafted as an infielder, but after discussions with the higher-ups in the program, it was determined he would focus on pitching, while receiving his share of at-bats.
“It was a dream come true,” McGuire said. “I am so thankful for the Blue Jays organization for believing in me and allowing me to live out my dream. I have had a great support system over the years [friends, family, coaching staff] who have helped me get to where I am today. I dreamt of this my whole life.”
Through his battle, where the lord truly tested Andy’s patience, he credits his fantastic support system and continuous love for the game as his true motivation. In a time when many might have thrown in the towel, he stayed true to his love for the sport.
When asked, after all of the ups and downs if there is anything he would have done differently, McGuire said, “Being where I am in now, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I don’t know that I’d be where I am if I had….I am right where I want to be.”
A member of the Bluefield Blue Jays, Rookie level ball in the Appalachian League, McGuire has continued his collegiate success as a two-way player. In 10 appearances on the mound, he has a 1.54 ERA in just under 12 innings pitched and a .250 batting average in 28 at-bats with three doubles. The versatility McGuire possesses has the power to propel him through the minor league ranks to potentially fulfill his dream as a major leaguer.
McGuire had advice for any person who might find themselves in a tough situation just as he did, “I would love to talk to anyone who is facing a tougher situation like I did. Just always stay ready in life. Take a few steps back and breathe. Believe in yourself, that is always what is most important”.
McGuire is the perfect example of what hard work and perseverance can do for an individual. Never go at a situation alone and always remain positive. When life throws you curveballs, sit back and drive it.