YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Stepping Back Into a Different Time and Place : McGuire Plays Baseball for Fun, Eschews Big-Money Contracts


For all Ryan McGuire did on the baseball field at UCLA this spring--a display of breathtaking offense and near-flawless defense--it is his personality that seems to leave people most spellbound.

McGuire, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound first baseman from El Camino Real High, appears to be living his own nostalgic baseball dream while preparing to enter an occupation that, according to many, has been poisoned by labor disputes, million-dollar contract wars and money-hungry agents.

Listen to what he says.

"I'm 21. I have no use for a quarter of a million dollars," McGuire says.

Many project McGuire to be one of the first 28 players chosen today in major league baseball's amateur draft. First-round draft picks have demanded and received anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000 in recent years.

This year the expected first two picks--Alex Rodriguez, a Miami-area high school shortstop, and Wichita State pitcher Darren Dreifort--are seeking $2 million deals.

"What am I going to do with that kind of money?" McGuire says. "All I care about is eating and playing baseball--and neither of those are very expensive."

But players of McGuire's stature need legal advisers in this day and age. And, perhaps to his dismay, he has acquired one.

He's a first-team All-American who, for the third season in a row, feasted on Pacific 10 Conference pitching, which some argue is the best in college baseball.

He batted .319 as a freshman, and 21 of his 43 hits went for extra bases. He hit .316 last year with 14 home runs, 19 doubles and 61 runs batted in.

After being the last player cut by Team U.S.A. on the eve of the Barcelona Olympics last summer, McGuire returned this spring to lead the Bruins in eight offensive categories: batting (.376), runs (71), hits (83), home runs (26), RBIs (91), total bases (172), slugging percentage (.778) and walks (62).

McGuire, a junior, was second on the team with 14 stolen bases (in 17 attempts) and had a .993 fielding average.

Pro scouts are now convinced the hits will keep on coming.

"He's a talented kid with plus makeup," said Florida Marlin associate scout Bill Hughes, a Valley resident who has watched McGuire since high school. "When we talk in terms of plus tools, we mean above average for a major leaguer."

Hughes gives McGuire a plus rating for power, fielding and personality.

That's right. Personality.

Scouts have begun charting attitude along with bat speed, foot speed and arm strength. Hughes said a player's psychological makeup has as much to do with when he gets picked as his physical skills.

"You're not going to struggle with an attitude here," Hughes said. "He doesn't get too high or too low."

McGuire, a crew-cut redhead, is a throwback to another time. He idolizes a man who died 52 years ago, a left-handed first baseman named Lou Gehrig.

"He played every day; there wasn't any question that he wouldn't," said McGuire of Gehrig, whom the Yankees nicknamed the Iron Horse and who was built much like McGuire at 6-0, 200 pounds. "He was workmanlike. He epitomized the ways things used to be. I admire that. I try to emulate that work ethic."

Said Ken McGuire, Ryan's dad, who is the director of development for UCLA's athletic department: "I grew up in the '40s and '50s, and the crazy thing is it seems like Ryan comes right out of that time frame. It's like you could take him and drop him right into Iowa in the '50s.

"Ryan just feels it's a privilege to put on the uniform. Ryan would play baseball for $1 million or one dollar. I'm flattered that he's part of our family and I had the opportunity to know him."

Oddly, McGuire came back to the Valley only three times to visit his parents, Ken and Kathy, during his freshman year at UCLA. He'll be with them today, waiting for the phone to ring.

"I don't want to think about the money part, it's too weird," McGuire said.

"My family is not terribly wealthy. Money is not particularly important to me. My parents didn't raise my sister (Erin) and me to be materialistic.

"I have no dreams of buying a brand-new Porsche. I don't have a car, so I'll buy one. But it won't be anything to write home about. I might splurge and also buy a watch."

Of course, there is no guarantee McGuire will go in the first round. UCLA publicist John Dolak has seen every indication he will. But Dolak, a former Bruin catcher who played with Dodger first baseman Eric Karros, has been fooled before.

"We were shocked when Karros didn't go in the first round," said Dolak, who is close to McGuire. "But with Ryan, I've never seen a better first baseman in the 10 years I've been around college baseball. Ryan is just 10 times better than Eric in the field.

"Eric physically could turn a single into a double or hit a ball out that most guys would fly out on. But, toolwise, I think Ryan knows how to play the game better.

Los Angeles Times Articles