Oneonta’s McGraw reflects on experience with national college baseball team

Aug. 6—Teddy McGraw has come a long way since his days of playing baseball at Oneonta High School.

The Daily Star’s 2018 Baseball Player of the Year earned a scholarship to play Division I ball at Wake Forest and has since carved out a spot as a key cog on one of the best teams in the country.

But the OHS grad was able to showcase his skills on an even bigger stage in July when he earned a spot on USA Baseball’s national college team to play at Honkbalweek Haarlem in the Netherlands.

The rising college junior traveled with 25 of the best college baseball players in America to compete in an international competition that the US hadn’t participated in since 2014. While Team USA fell short of winning the coveted gold medal, they did come home with the bronze. McGraw also brought back with him memories that will last a lifetime.

“The talent that we had on the team was second to none,” he said. “It’s the best college players in the game and just to be able to learn from those guys and compete with them, it was really something cool. To wear the ‘USA’ across your chest is something that is almost indescribable.”

McGraw and the Demon Deacons fell just short of the College Baseball World Series, losing two of their three Regional contests to finish the season with a record of 41-19-1.

McGraw was planning to head to the Cape Cod Baseball League to play for the Brewster Whitecaps, with whom he had won the 2021 CCBL title along with fellow Oneonta natives John Mikolaicyk and Lance Ratchford.

He received an invitation to try out for the national team, and after two weeks on the Cape, he was off to Cary, North Carolina for a week to battle it out with 50 other players for a coveted spot on the final roster that would be heading to Europe under head coach Mike Bianco, who was coming off leading Ole Miss to its first-ever national championship.

Even having played against some of the best competition in college baseball, McGraw said the talent level in North Carolina was unlike anything he had ever experienced.

“That’s probably the best baseball I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “The level of talent there was probably higher overall than the level of talent over in the Netherlands. Obviously we didn’t win the tournament… but we were the best team there.”

McGraw said one of the most memorable moments of the entire experience — at home or abroad — was when he got to play in the inter-squad game at the home of the Triple A Charlotte Knights in front of 11,000 people on the Fourth of July.

“It was really cool to wear the ‘USA’ on the Fourth of July and have a sold-out Triple A stadium there to watch you, and then have a great fireworks show after. It was really one of the best Fourth of July experiences I’ve ever hated,” he said.

After the training camp concluded, McGraw received the good news that he had indeed made the team. Making the moment even more special was the fact that he would be joined by Wake Forest teammate Rhett Lowder, who had recently been named the ACC’s Pitcher of the Year.

“He’s one of my best friends. We room together at school and on the road trips and we kept rooming together with Team USA,” McGraw said of Lowder. “We got to go to the Netherlands together and we got to experience cool stuff. Neither of us had been out of the country before so to be able to do it with one of your best friends was really cool.”

While he and his teammates were obviously looking to bring home a gold medal, they also found the time to explore nearby Amsterdam and all that it had to offer.

“It really wasn’t anything like what I could imagine,” McGraw said of his first overseas experience. “It’s just different to be able to experience a different culture firsthand. Obviously you can look up pictures and watch a movie but to be able to actually go over there and be able to experience it was pretty cool.”

Eventually, however, McGraw and company had to get down to business. Team USA split its first two games, falling to Japan 1-0 and routing Italy 9-0.

In his third game against Cuba, McGraw saw his first and only action of the tournament. He made the most of it, pitching three scoreless innings of relief in a 2-0 victory. McGraw’s final line was impeccable: four strikeouts, no walks, and just one hit allowed in the three-inning save.

Despite it being his first experience playing on an international stage, McGraw said he approached his outing like it was any other game.

“It definitely felt good but we were all just there trying to win and trying to enjoy ourselves and make the most out of it,” he said. “It wasn’t really like there was any added pressure because of the stage or anything like that. We were just out there playing baseball and having fun.”

The US would win its third straight game 10-0 against the Netherlands, but dropped consecutive 3-2 contests to Curacao to fall out of the running for the gold medal.

Team USA rebounded to defeat Japan 5-1 on Friday, July 15 to bring home the bronze medal.

McGraw is back home in Oneonta, where he plans to take a break from throwing, to relax and recover, and to get ready for his junior year at Wake Forest.

Expectations will be high for a Demon Deacons team that will be returning a lot of talent in 2023, McGraw and Lowder included. For now, however, McGraw is content to sit back and take in his national team experience with the hope that it will translate to even more success down the road.

“The experience is definitely going to help a lot,” he said. “The more you get to play baseball, it’s only going to help in the long run. We have a lot of guys coming back next year and a lot of guys who are doing well right now in summer ball. We certainly had a good year last year and we’re going to hope to build on that and all the experiences that all of us have had, we hope that’s going to get us to that next level.”

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