Seven-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady retired from the National Basketball Association last month yet is hoping for another win when the Biloxi Council votes on financing for a minor league baseball stadium in the city, SunHerald reported.
It isn’t certain when that vote to back a $21 million bond to build a stadium will come. But McGrady, 34, is putting his money behind the project as an investor and part-owner of the baseball team.
“This will be a dream come true. It’s a lifelong vision of mine to be a part of baseball,” he said in a phone interview with the Sun Herald. “I made it in basketball but I always wanted to play baseball, If a ballpark comes out of this I’ll be more than pleased.”
It might seem unusual for a basketball star to back a baseball team, but T-Mac, as McGrady is popularly known, was a two-sport star at Auburndale High School in central Florida and aspired to play baseball in the major leagues.
“I love baseball. That was my first love,” McGrady said. “Even to this day I love baseball more than I love basketball. People from my hometown would understand that.”
Tim Bennett with Overtime Sports, who has worked for nine years to bring baseball to South Mississippi, is one of those people who understands. Bennett grew up in the same neighborhood as McGrady in Polk County, Fla., which Bennett said was one of the poorest areas of the state.
They knew each other before McGrady was drafted into the NBA and share a high level of trust, Bennett said.
McGrady was the ninth-overall draft pick right out of high school and played for 16 seasons in Toronto, Orlando, Houston, New York, Detroit, Atlanta and San Antonio. He also played a season with the Qingdao Eagles in China.
When McGrady was in the spotlight playing basketball and Bennett was working behind the scenes, scoring the Atlanta Braves’ Class AA baseball team for Pearl, they talked about doing something big together.
“This is the perfect time and the perfect opportunity,” Bennett said. The Biloxi team will be a AA affiliate for a major league baseball team, and will play the Pearl team.
McGrady sees the potential for a stadium that will bring families together and be a catalyst for the revitalization of the downtown that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
“The NBA is having a preseason game in Biloxi,” he said, referring to the Oct. 13 matchup of the New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks at the Coast Coliseum. “So why not baseball?”
The Houston area where he lives is home of the Sugarland Skeeters minor league team and McGrady said, “Every chance I get I go down to the baseball stadium.”
He also takes his kids, who range in ages from 4-10. “It’s a family fun night out at the park; you just can’t beat that,” he said.
When McGrady visited Bennett at the stadium in Pearl, he stepped into the bullpen with Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann and threw fastballs clocked at more than 90 mph.
He’s also been to Biloxi a couple of times and said he stayed at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, across Beach Boulevard from the stadium site, and awoke to see dolphins swimming outside his window.
While critics of the stadium advocate a different site, McGrady said, “The location is awesome. When they talk about real estate it’s location, location, location. It can’t get any better than this.”
Although he’s retired from the NBA, McGrady is contemplating playing basketball one more year in China. “I have a lot of fans over there so we’ll see,” he said.
He remains active in the area where he grew up in Florida and his home in the Houston area through the Tracy McGrady Foundation.
In 2007 he visited refugee camps in the Darfur region of Sudan in Africa. Because of a documentary of his trip and the support of NBA players, “We have 12 sister schools that came out of that,” he said.
With all the places he’s visited and accomplishments he’s had, McGrady said he believes in Biloxi and is making plans for the opening game of the 2015 minor league baseball season. “I’m definitely bringing my kids down there, for sure,” he said.
Tracy McGrady retired from the NBA in August 2013, following his rather bleak short stay with the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Playoffs the same year.
McGrady nearly won his first NBA title, but the Spurs lost to the Miami Heat in an epic seven-game finals series in June. McGrady averaged 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in a career that started in 1997, when he was drafted out of high school.
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