Madison senior shortstop Andy McGuire knew something was not right last spring. His left hip irritated him, and he lacked the quick first step and the usual crispness in his other baseball tools, whether it be in the field, on the mound or at the plate.Yet tests showed nothing unusual.
That would have been troubling enough for any high school shortstop with aspirations to play in college. But when you’ve committed to the University of Texas, and are listed among the top professional prospects in the Class of 2013, any weakness, real or imagined, is magnified in the eyes of peers, opponents, scouts and spectators.
Put it this way: There were eight starting shortstops in the Virginia AAA Liberty District last season. Two were named first-team all-district. The Longhorn-to-be was not one of them — he made first team as a designated hitter — at least in part because of that troublesome hip that he did not want to cite as an excuse because supposedly there was nothing wrong with it.
“It was really hard,” the 6-foot-1, 190-pound McGuire recalled Monday afternoon after he and the Warhawks went through their first practice of the season. “There were times I didn’t want to go out and play, but I’m not the kind of guy to just complain about something when I have no idea what it is. I just tried to make the most of what I had.
“The muscle would tighten up around the hip socket and I’d compensate and it would throw off things. Running was weird, hitting was kind of tough not being able to have the torque that comes with having a functional hip. Pitching was weird; balance was a little off.”
Last summer the frustrated McGuire dragged his bum hip to high-profile baseball events in Minnesota, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and New York and then decided to seek further medical attention. Finally in August a specialist discovered that McGuire had extra bone in his left hip and would need surgery.
Pleased to at last have a diagnosis, McGuire delayed the procedure so he could try to earn a spot on the USA under-18 national team. He made it, traveling with the team to Taiwan and Korea, dealing with the discomfort of the long flights. The U.S. team won the International Baseball Federation 18U Baseball World Championship for the first time since 1999.
“I was playing really well this summer,” McGuire said, “so if everything felt good, it’s hard to say I could have had a better summer. But maybe a more relaxed and fun summer rather than a really stressful, confusing summer.”
McGuire had the extra bone shaved off and his torn labrum repaired in September. He is looking more like the player that some publications cite as a possible first- or second round pick in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft, set for June 6-8. Baseball America has picked him as a third-team preseason all-American, a list that also includes Riverdale Baptist outfielder Matt McPhearson, a University of Miami signee.
“He’s smiling again,” said Madison Coach Mark Gjormand, who plans to use McGuire as one of his three starting pitchers as well as at short.. “This time last year he was really worried. He was stressed all the time. It’s just fun to see him out there. He just looks like a new guy.”
“Knowing that the surgery went well and that everything in the hip is fine gives me confidence to go out and play,” McGuire said.
Eager for a look at a healthier McGuire, professional scouts dropped by Madison during the offseason to observe him when the Warhawks were conducting their allotted “green day” workouts. By the end of last summer, McGuire’s 60-yard dash time had slowed from about 6.7 seconds months prior to about 7.3 seconds, so scouts are eager to see if he has regained his quickness and deft feet. The early indications are positive.
“They were amazed because I think they kind of expected him to be out of shape a little bit,” Gjormand said. “I think they were floored at how his footwork was. He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him.”