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Sparks' Jake McGee is a family man first, a major-league pitcher second

Jake McGee
Jake McGee has been one of baseball's top left-handed relievers for the last decade. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

There's been symmetry to Jake McGee's baseball career.

“You've got the Little League Giants, the Babe Ruth Giants and now the real Giants," his father, Mark, said. "It’s surreal.”

McGee held back tears when reflecting on his son's accomplishments as Jake prepares for the next chapter in his career, playing for the San Francisco Giants, the team he grew up rooting for while being raised in Northern Nevada. A left-handed relief pitcher, McGee agreed to a two-year contract worth $7 million over two years with the Giants earlier this month.

“I watched the Giants a lot,” Jake said. “We’d go to the Giants’ games here and there, so to be table to sign with the Giants the other day is very fortunate, and it’s the hometown team.”

The Reed High alum anticipated going to UNLV for baseball after graduating high school, but the universe had a different plan after he was a fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I went to Reed High School, played pretty much only baseball, didn’t really play any other sports,” McGee said. “Travel ball teams all the time. Junior, senior year I signed my letter of intent to UNLV and then ended up getting drafted by Tampa and went that route. So I was only 17, I figured I’d get into pro baseball and it worked out pretty well.”

For as long as Mark can remember, baseball his been Jake’s world.

“His whole life has been baseball,” Mark said. “I mean, honestly, we would play in a tournament like three games on a weekend and we'd come home and I'd hear him outside breaking boards and throwing the ball at the fence. I mean, he just lived baseball, and he left at 17, he was still a kid. He’s basically grown up in that environment.”

Mark said he didn’t realize the magnitude of how good his son was until 26 scouts showed up to Jake's game during his senior season. His favorite moment of his son’s career so far? Striking out Derek Jeter in his big-league debut.

“So this is your major-league debut,” Mark said. “You come in with runners on and he struggled a little bit. So here comes Derek Jeter, bases loaded. I mean, I’m freaking out. But he struck him out. That's a good way to start your major-league career.”

Jake adds: “I’ve been very fortunate to face a lot of these guys. I had to face Jeter all the time and (David) Ortiz all the time. And facing those guys is really neat. And then now getting to face (Mike) Trout and (Cody) Bellinger and all those guys, this is pretty cool.”

McGee is coming off a World Series championship with the Los Angles Dodgers, an experience he says he’ll forever be grateful for.

“It was really fun,” McGee said. “The whole season was different, kind of being confined, like didn't even want to go out of the house too much even during the season. But when we went to the bubble in Dallas, it was just the hotel to the field, hotel to the field. But everybody had their family there, so all the kids had fun. Being with the family is always a good thing.”

Jake, a father to daughter Rowen Beth and husband to Morgan McGee, said having his family experience this one-of-a-kind season made it more special. The Dodgers camped out in the Dallas area for almost a month while playing in the National League Championship Series and World Series.

“They throw different events and birthday parties," McGee said. "We had like a Halloween trick-or-treat for all the kids. And it got everyone closer. I think we're fortunate to be in the same hotel for the whole month. Some other teams had to go from different cities and end up in Dallas, but it all worked out well.”

If there was one challenging part about the bubble, McGee said it was the joke.

“We had like the same food almost every day," McGee said. "We were able to cater a few times, but it was kind of like Groundhogs Day. Some of the guys said, 'You wake up, have breakfast, get your coffee, go to the field and come back.'"

Jake prides himself on being a family man and "girl dad."

“I like to spend time with my wife and daughter a lot, spend quality time, especially in the offseason," McGee said. "We always take advantage of the offseason when we can.”

Jake glows when talking about Rowen.

“We actually signed her up for snowboarding lessons," said McGee, who moved back to Northern Nevada this offseason. "So she's kind of getting into snowboarding a little more. She goes to dance class and stuff like that.”

Aside from baseball, one element of Jake’s life that Mark is most proud of is seeing the man he’s become.

“There's so many things that I could be proud of,” Mark said. “I could just sit here for hours and just talk about it. But I think a lot of it is just the person he is now, the man he's become. He's such a good kid and has a good heart. His little girl’s his world. The Dodger team picture, when they won, she's on his shoulders, and he just worships the ground she walks on and he just treats her so good. And like I said, it's just to watch him grow up and become the person he is. It's been really, really heartwarming, really cool.”

Returning to his hometown, Jake’s had the opportunity to practice at the Northern Nevada Baseball Club, owned by friend and former third-round MLB draft pick, Chris Aguila, a McQueen High alum.

“Very fortunate to have Chris have me, let me work out here," McGee said. "And be with all the guys here and help them out when I can and just whenever I'm needed to help out and throw here. And it's fortunate to have catchers and all the resources you need to get ready for the season.”

Looking back at his time in Northern Nevada playing ball, Jake reflects on one significant game that forever will be engrained.

“I was playing for Reed and we went to the state championship,” McGee said. “We ended up losing to Vegas team. But just going through that journey in 2004 and I was only 17, going through that moment and then getting drafted by Tampa and going all the way across country (was special).”

After spending 12 years in the majors, McGee is proud of how far he’s come.

“When I look back at it now, putting in the work day-to-day and it took me 6 years to get the big leagues," McGee said. "I had Tommy John in 2008 and then made the big leagues in 2010. But from then on I just kept working every day and in the offseason and I look at look back now, 12 years later in the big leagues, it's pretty crazy."

Five fun facts

Favorite food: Mexican

Favorite baseball memory: “It was the last day of the season and (Evan) Longoria had a walk-off home run in extra innings and we were down like 7-0. I ended up pitching that last inning getting the win, and I got the win the night before. And just being a part of that and just seeing the fans react when the Red Sox lost the game and then Longoria hit the homer maybe a minute later and then we walked off and won."

Favorite MLB player: Chipper Jones

Favorite artist/band: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Favorite place to visit in Reno: Port of Subs

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