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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 04, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 05Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

McGrath is man on a mission
Biloxi MS Sun Herald 2Jun00 S2

CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA -- Ryan McGrath, catcher for Mississippi State's baseball team, will go on an LDS mission this summer. McGrath, 23, has been called to serve in the Chihuahua Mexico mission. But two or three years ago, McGrath wouldn't have even considered serving a mission.

McGrath was born in Utah and grew up in the Silicon Valley area of California, where he and his elder brother, Sean McGrath, got caught on baseball. But the family then moved to Corinth, Mississippi, where McGrath suffered a bit of culture shock on arrival. "The perception you got on TV about Mississippi wasn't always the best,'' McGrath said. "It was a big adjustment, from a city of 150,000, with a lot of other people right down the road, to a town of 15,000. I didn't know what to expect. Athletics was the one place where I made all my friends to begin with. I felt I kind of got accepted. I played football, baseball, soccer.''

His baseball talent earned him a place on Mississippi State's team. He also earned an academic scholarship, which would continue if he kept a 3.0 grade-point average. "I was at 2.98 after my freshman year,'' he said.

"I think it was the freedom I had in college, experimenting with different things,'' McGrath said. "I was struggling with my academics, not leading my life the way I wanted. I wasn't as close as I am now to some of the guys on the team.''

But in 1998, he returned home for Christmas and decided to make some changes, "Just being around my family made me look at some things,'' Ryan McGrath said. "I made several changes in my life.'' He soon found a balance between baseball and books, and he graduated this year with a double major in accounting and banking/finance. He was also named to the Southeastern Conference Honor Roll.

McGrath also excelled on the field, accumulating a .317 batting average, with just 27 strikeouts in 186 at bats. He says baseball has been a lot of fun, "I do love it. It's been a part of my life since I was 4 years old,'' McGrath said. "You see a sense of urgency with the seniors. We try to tell the younger guys that it doesn't matter what the fans here do, or say, that we have to play our own game, and let things on the field take care of themselves.''

But McGrath will leave all that behind for two years when he starts serving his mission. At least that's what he has decided. A few big-league scouts have approached him, and McGrath may be drafted in baseball's draft this week, "A couple of teams have approached me, and asked if I'd be interested,'' McGrath said. "As of right now, I've made my mind up, and it's my decision (to go on the mission).''


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