SUGAR LAND, Texas — Baseball was Tracy McGrady’s first love.
His talent as a basketball player pushed baseball aside in high school, but he never gave up his dream to play again.
So at age 34 after a 15-year career in the NBA, the 6-foot-8 McGrady is trying to earn a contract as a pitcher with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.
“This will be huge,” he said Wednesday about the potential to play professional baseball. “This will be so gratifying, even if I just go out there and pitch one inning the whole season this will be a dream that has come true for me.”
McGrady starting playing baseball at age 5 and was a two-sport star until he transferred to Mount Zion Christian Academy, which doesn’t have a baseball team, for his senior year in high school.
The seven-time All-Star retired from the NBA in 2013 after playing for several teams including the Toronto Raptors, Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic.
McGrady now has flecks of gray in his beard, but recounted his affinity for baseball with childlike enthusiasm, repeating the words dream and love again and again. He used the gigantic hands and rangy fingers that helped him score more than 18,000 points in the NBA to grip and fidget with a pristine baseball as he spoke delightedly about the sport.
“I’m extremely confident in myself and my ability,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for me to fulfill a dream. It’s the independent league. I’m not signing some multi-million dollar contract that I’m used to signing. This is all for the love of the game.”
The league isn’t affiliated with major league baseball, but a few of its players end up in the big leagues each year. Scott Kazmir, who recently signed a $22 million, two-year contract with the Athletics, pitched for the Skeeters in 2012.