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Balancing Act

McRee answers the call on the mound and in classroom

POSTED: April 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Ashley Connell/Georgia Sports Communications

Georgia pitcher Alex McRee, a Chestatee High graduate, delivers a pitch during a recent game. McRee leads the Bulldogs with a 5-1 record.

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Georgia pitcher Alex McRee has a very busy schedule.

This 2006 Chestatee High graduate and pre-med student is balancing a flourishing career as a sophomore pitcher for the Bulldogs and a challenging academic schedule as a biology major.

McRee, who stands 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, puts an equal emphasis on both sides of his life.

The athletic side of McRee is always working to get bigger and stronger as he looks to lead Georgia back to the College World Series for the first time since 2004. Currently, he leads the team with a 5-1 record — four of his wins out of the bullpen — and had a career-high seven strikeouts in a win against Clemson on April 1 at Foley Field in Athens.

He’s tallied 31 strikeouts and only allowed 10 walks in 25 Ã innings pitched for the 11th-ranked Bulldogs (20-12, 9-3 SEC) this season.

"I’ve been pleased with how Alex has handled his job, especially out of the bullpen," Georgia coach David Perno said. "We always knew he had the stuff, he just had to get the confidence."

Even with his athletic success, McRee never neglects his academic responsibilities despite carrying a much more demanding schedule than most student-athletes have to deal with.

"It isn’t easy being a baseball player and being pre-med," McRee said. "There’s never really an easy time of the year. ... We play 30 games in the fall and have morning lifts, so it’s always busy."

Now in final semester of his sophomore year, McRee is finishing up core requirements with classes such as Spanish and Geography. He’ll ratchet up to an exclusively science-based curriculum next fall with classes such as biology, physics and biochemistry.

That’s enough long hours studying and in a lab to keep a student that doesn’t play sports sweating bullets.

"Alex has a back-up plan for his life if baseball doesn’t work out," his mother Lynn McRee said. "He wants to be a doctor."

The life of a baseball player and that of a pre-med student are vastly different in the eyes of most, but McRee often sees the two meet head-on. On two separate occasions this season, McRee has made the jump from the pitching mound to the classroom for a required test literally within minutes.

On March 26 with a mid-week start against Kennesaw State in Athens, McRee pitched the first 2 À innings before having to leave the game for an organic chemistry test at 7 p.m. When he left the game he quickly changed clothes, hopped on his athletic department-provided scooter and rode off to take his test.

"That’s a big boy riding around on a scooter," his mother added with a laugh.

His second clash of responsibilities was a little more dramatic than the first. Georgia had an exhibition scheduled against the Atlanta Braves at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It happened to fall on the same day as another organic chemistry exam.

A couple of special accommodations had to be prepared for McRee to see the mound that afternoon against the Braves. His test was sent to the University of Central Florida for him to take as soon as the game was complete.

McRee seemingly pulled off what could have become chaos without any trouble. He struck out three against the Braves, returned to the hotel where a shuttle was waiting, was chauffeured 30 minutes to the Orlando campus and managed to make a B on the challenging test.

"That was the best I’d done on a test in that class," McRee said. "I studied for that test for a few days before going down to Orlando so I could enjoy the trip.

"That was just a thrill to get to see those guys for the Braves that I grew up watching."

McRee certainly wants to be one of those guys lucky enough to play in the majors a few years from now. He already has a fastball topping out in the mid-90s that is going to draw even more attention from pro scouts. He’ll be eligible for the major league draft again in 2009 after he was previously drafted in the 48th round after his senior year of high school by the Tampa Bay Rays.

McRee has the frame to match his speed after putting on 20 pounds of muscle last summer. He did grueling work outs that consisted primarily of squats, pull ups and some running. As a result of added mass, he saw the velocity on his fastball improve "2 to 3 miles per hour."

McRee will take this summer off from school to play in the highly-touted Cape Cod League in New England. There, he’ll have his fair share of encounters with radar guns and scouts to see him pitch.

McRee certainly hopes that major league baseball is in the cards for his future, but remains self-assured that his life after college baseball will either involve reading catcher’s signs or vital signs.



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