Photo was taken by Evan Moesta (Manager of Multimedia for Carolina Mudcats)
Drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft, Ashton McGee was all set to begin climbing the minor league ladder toward the major leagues.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 minor league baseball season, but McGee made sure to stay ready for whenever the minor league season would start again.
He was working out in Wilmington three times a week, hitting at a facility four to five times a week, and doing whatever he could to stay active both physically and mentally.
“Everybody wants to play, but at the end of the day, you have to make sure that everybody is safe and healthy,” McGee said. “That was my first priority with family and friends, and hopefully, baseball would get back sooner rather than later.”
Finally, in May 2021, minor league baseball season started up again, and McGee was more than ready. And throughout the season, the C.B. Aycock alum has been climbing the rungs on the minor-league ladder.
“That was the longest I’d gone without playing baseball growing up, so it was different,” McGee said. “I was really excited to get going.”
Starting out in Arizona for spring training, McGee was assigned to play with the Carolina Mudcats, the Brewers Low-A affiliate, in Fayetteville.
In 71 games with the Mudcats, McGee was masterful. He posted a .301 batting average, 72 hits, 54 RBIs, 20 doubles and 10 home runs.
He even got to stay at home and have his friends and family come to see him play. McGee said that was one of the major bonuses of playing for the Mudcats.
“It was good being close to home so everybody could come to see me play and being able to stay at home while I was there,” McGee said. “So, honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that.
“I was really blessed to be able to stay in my home state.”
McGee’s best performance arguably came against the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers on July 14. He went 4-5 from the plate with two home runs, one of which was a grand slam, and was a double shy of the cycle. The nine RBIs in one game also set a new Mudcats’ record for RBIs in a single game.
“You just have to continue to work hard, so hopefully, I can fulfill my dream,” McGee said. “The work definitely isn’t done, so I have to continue to work hard to get better.”
It was only a matter of time before McGee was promoted, and in August, McGee learned he was heading to Grand Chute, Wisconsin, to play for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers High-A affiliate.
At the time of his promotion, McGee led the Low-A East in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He was also top 10 in RBIs, walks, doubles and extra-base hits.
McGee had never been to Wisconsin before, but he was more than happy to move over 1,000 miles north to Grand Chute. Overall, McGee said, the experience of playing 15 games for the Timber Rattlers was a good one, and he cannot wait until the start of the 2022 minor league season.
“I was excited, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get that call because it was so late in the season already, but it definitely felt good to be able to go up to Wisconsin,” McGee said. “It was a new challenge, and you got to see where you’re at skill-wise with the other guys.
“I definitely enjoyed it, and I was blessed to have that opportunity.”
The one thing McGee will not miss about Wisconsin is the mosquitos, which he said were ten times bigger and ten times worse.
“That’s been the only downside to Wisconsin,” McGee said. “Trying to play in the infield when you got mosquitoes trying to bite through your jerseys and socks, but other than that, it’s been good.”
McGee was playing several games a week in the minor leagues, and with the season just coming to an end, he is looking forward to returning home and resting his body for a couple of weeks before he starts working out again.
“It’s been a long, long season, and it was the most games I’ve played ever, so my body is definitely tired, so I’ll rest for a couple of weeks,” McGee said. “After that, I’ll be working out three to four times a week until about February when spring training starts again.”
Every kid that dreams of playing in the majors watches baseball almost religiously on television, and McGee was no different from those other kids.
But not every kid grows up to live out this dream, and McGee is happy to keep climbing the ladder toward his dream of making it to the major leagues.
“It’s just a step in the right direction to making it to the major leagues, so just have to continue to work, and hopefully the success will continue to come,” McGee said.