Heading into last season, Andy McGuire and the Madison baseball team shouldered heavy expectations. One of the most highly touted players ever to come out of Northern Virginia, McGuire led an extremely talented group that many considered the most well-rounded baseball team in the state going into last March.
McGuire, who committed to the University of Texas as a sophomore, carried out his junior year in respectable fashion, but it hardly met the transcendent status he had built during his first two years of high school. His teammates followed suit, racking up a 15-6 record that culminated in a loss against Langley in the quarterfinals of the Liberty District tournament. A decent spring for most ball clubs, but not for a team of Madison’s caliber.
McGuire had a hard time shaking off the way that season ended, feeling largely responsible in light of performances that didn’t play out the way he anticipated.
“The season wasn’t up to my own standard, just expecting so much of myself, let alone everyone else’s [expectations], but that’s just because I worked so hard in the offseason and was really prepared,” McGuire said. “We had a good team coming in and everyone was excited, so it was just kind of a bummer.”
All season long, McGuire sensed there was something slightly off with his physical capabilities. There wasn’t much pain involved, but certain movements caused physical discomfort in his left hip, which prompted him to get an MRI at the beginning of the season. The doctor said it looked like a bone bruise, but it wasn’t anything too unusual for an athlete who frequently puts pressure on his hip for throwing and hitting. So he shook it off and finished out the season.
“I tried my best to play through it and didn’t really care to talk about it with anyone because I didn’t know exactly what was going on and I didn’t want to make any excuses,” McGuire said.
Before embarking on a trip to Korea with the Team USA 18-and-under National Team last summer, McGuire went back to see the same doctor, who referred him to Dr. Andrew Parker, team physician for the Washington Redskins. Parker gave him the go-ahead to participate with Team USA, but he made it clear McGuire would eventually need surgery to repair the partial tear in his hip.
He played in Korea and underwent surgery back home on Sept. 19. Rehab hummed along ahead of schedule, and McGuire was fully cleared to play on Jan. 21. Although it will still take a couple more months for his hip to get completely reacclimated, McGuire says he feels 100 percent healthy heading into Tuesday’s opener against Fairfax.
That’s good news for the Warhawks, who hope to ride McGuire’s senior season to their first Northern Region title since 2003.
“My expectations are just for [McGuire] to go out and have fun,” said Madison coach Mark Gjormand, who has captured 10 Liberty District titles in his 18 years at the Vienna school.“It’s awesome right now to see him flying around smiling and feeling healthy.”
Even with his own expectations once again on the climb, McGuire said he’s not aiming for any particular number of hits, homers, outs or any other stat this year.
“I don’t do that,” he said. “It just sets yourself up for failure.”
You don’t need numbers to understand the kind of talent Madison’s prized shortstop possesses. According to Gjormand, McGuire does things every day in practice that most high school players only dream of pulling off. Whether it’s getting to the 6-hole and hurling a laser to throw a hitter out by five steps or firing a 93-mile-per-hour fastball down the middle of the plate, McGuire hones the kind of versatility that has induced drooling from pro scouts all over the country.
With his college recruitment out of the way, the only thing left for McGuire to consider is whether to go to Texas or turn professional this year. The only prep player from Virginia ever to commit to Texas, McGuire also is projected to be selected anywhere from eighth to 20th in this summer’s first-year player MLB draft. If he chooses to stick with Texas, rules mandate that he won’t be eligible for the pros again until he turns 21.
McGuire hasn’t made a decision one way or another yet, preferring to enjoy his final season with Madison before letting his mind wander into the future.
“It’s pretty real right now. I’ve just been talking to scouts,” said McGuire, who has been approached with home visits by 15 different pro scouts. “They’ve been coming to my house this past offseason. That’s the kind of thing that takes care of itself. I’m not really too worried about it. I just have to focus on what I’m doing and what we’re doing. They’re going to do their job, and I’ll do mine.”
Gjormand has been entertaining college and pro scouts interested in McGuire for a long time, almost to the point where having coffee with a scout is as routine as getting ready for practice. He noted that whether McGuire opts for college or the pros, success will likely find him regardless of what path he chooses.
“Obviously they know he can play. These guys are showing up here all the time,” Gjormand said. “I think that it’s a good problem to have. He’s got a strong support system, and he can’t go wrong either way.”
In the meantime, McGuire can look forward to a senior year with plenty of promise. Fellow senior Dan Powers, a William and Mary commit, will team up with him to go after their third district title.
“For this season we have a whole different team, a whole different feel,” McGuire said. “Everything feels different. Maybe that’s just because we’re the oldest and we’re the leaders, which is a good thing. So far it’s been exciting.”