Scott MacRae was coaching in the Cincinnati Reds' organization this time last year, working with young pitchers in the minors. Now the 29-year-old MacRae is pitching alongside some of the same players he coached as he begins a comeback with the Potomac Cannons.
After pitching with pain in his throwing arm for several years, MacRae was shut down in August 2002 and underwent Tommy John surgery to fix a torn ligament in his right elbow. The Reds released him when he needed additional surgery on his arm the next spring, but offered him the chance to coach pitchers for their rookie team in Billings, Mont.
"It allows you to see the game from a different perspective, to help guys realize their potential as pitchers," said MacRae, who pitched in the major leagues for the Reds in 2001. "But I wasn't really thinking that I was at that stage of my career yet, to start coaching and give up pitching."
MacRae spent his days last summer rehabilitating his arm and coaching at night -- working with current Cannons pitchers Jim Paduch and Calvin Medlock among others.
As a coach, MacRae drew upon a wealth of experience in the pro ranks. The Reds originally selected him in the 32nd round of the 1995 draft. He worked his way through Cincinnati's minor leagues for seven years before earning a promotion to the big-league club during the 2001 season. He appeared in 24 games and strung together 171/3 innings of scoreless baseball -- more than half of the innings he pitched with the Reds.
MacRae never made it back to the majors but said his desire to return to the top level serves as his motivation. The Reds re-signed him this spring, and transferred him from extended spring training to the Cannons July 5. Since then he has pitched eight innings in four games, posting a 1.13 ERA.
Now, MacRae puts both his playing and coaching experience to use on the mound.
"Being a coach allowed me to stay close to baseball," MacRae said. "If my body couldn't be in the game, it kept my mind in the game. It gave me a better understanding of how the game works, and it definitely helped me to come back."