Ryan McGee Joins ‘From Phenom To The Farm:’ Episode 80

Longtime readers, listeners, and watchers of Ryan McGee’s work know that most of the time he’s working on something, it’s a labor of love. The ESPN senior writer and co-host of the TV & radio show Marty & McGee isn’t shy about being loud and proud of his passions—motorsports, college football, the South in general, Marvel, and especially Minor League Baseball.


Powered by RedCircle


It’s common to see McGee on TV sporting one of the vast number of MiLB caps in his collection, and in his new book, “Welcome to the Circus of Baseball: A Story of the Perfect Summer at the Perfect Ballpark at the Perfect Time,” (reviewed in depth here by BA’s JJ Cooper) his adoration for the lower levels of professional baseball comes through over 272 delightful pages.  While the book chronicles McGee’s one season working in the minors, his relationship with MiLB is far more profound. To borrow a phrase from Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, when it comes to MiLB, McGee was born into MiLB, molded by it.

“I love Minor League Baseball so much—I’ve been to 129 parks,” said McGee. “My family, when I was a kid I the Carolinas, we’d just look at a map, ‘Alright we’ve never been to a game in Burlington, never been to a game in Kingston, never been to a game in Hickory—let’s go.’”

As a recent University of Tennessee grad, McGee set out to the 1993 MLB Winter Meetings, hoping to earn a job as a MiLB play-by-play broadcaster. However, in the same way the minor leagues can be for players, McGee had to adapt for the available job, instead of the job he hoped for.

“I had one maybe, possibly job offer that was attached to radio, but paid no money and it was in Connecticut. And then I had a solid job offer from the Asheville Tourists, and it was the only real offer I had, it was $100 a week, an internship, you’re going to work in the front office—that was it,” said McGee.

By “work in the front office,” the Tourists (and every other MiLB team) mean their interns will become a jack of all trades and maybe even a master of one, depending on how often it rains. In “Welcome to the Circus of Baseball,” McGee details a summer spent running around a steamy ballpark in the Appalachian Mountains running around with his hair on fire—tearing tickets, corralling on-field entertainers, carrying things much too heavy up concrete flights of steps, and of course, pulling tarp.  

McGee was one year and done in MiLB, moving onto the storied career he’s well-known for today. As JJ said in his review of “Welcome to the Circus of Baseball” about MiLB interns, “Some will spend a year or two there and realize they have other dreams and other plans. Ryan McGee ended up finding another path.” Fortunately for fans of baseball literature, McGee and baseball crossed paths again.

An avid fan of college baseball and the College World Series, McGee began to cover the sport’s championship series every year in Omaha. Heading into the 2008 CWS, with momentum towards a new stadium or venue change looming, McGee took his first crack at a baseball book.

The Road to Omaha is a love letter to Rosenblatt Stadium,” said McGee. “The pitch was, ‘We have to write this book now, because Rosenblatt Stadium is going to go away,’”

McGee’s book is as close as one can be to sitting in the middle of a College World Series game without making the trip to Omaha. In “The Road to Omaha, he masterfully chronicles the on-field drama of ’08 Series—filled with legendary coaches like Mike Martin and Jim Morris, a Golden Spikes winner in Buster Posey trying to cap a legendary college career, and the longest of long-shots in Fresno State making a run at a title—while also showcasing the environment which makes the CWS special, in Rosenblatt and Omaha itself.

All those trips to Omaha, the storied career covering the sports and culture he loves, for McGee, are rooted back to that first summer in the working world back in Asheville.

“It was like Paris Island boot camp of Minor League Baseball the very first day on the job, and I realized it was the hardest I was every going to work, least amount of money I was ever going to make, but looking back it was the most fun I ever had,” said McGee.

On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ ESPN senior writer Ryan McGee joins to discuss his life as a MiLB intern, and a trip down memory lane in covering the 2008 College World Series. 

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone