Where are they now? Thomas McIlraith

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Grinding through 10 years of professional baseball, Thomas McIlraith has found an unexpected place to call home.

Going strong this summer, the 30-year-old 2012 Tascosa alum has secured a spot with the Mexican League’s Algodoneros de Unión Laguna team in Torreón, MX.

The Mexican League is the top professional league in the country and boasts many former Major League Baseball talents such as Trevor Bauer and Robinson Cano.

The road to Mexican baseball wasn’t an easy one or a path McIlraith ever thought he’d take.

McIlraith was a 20th round draft pick of the New York Mets organization in 2015, spending six years in the Mets minor league system, reaching as high as the Double A Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

Tascosa graduate Thomas McIlraith is 5-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 16 saves for the Algodoneros de Unión Laguna team. [Provided photo]
Through injuries and finding it hard to get that push to the next level, McIlraith, who was 17-18 in the minors with a 3.73 ERA, had thoughts of calling it a career seven years in.

“I was ready to be done playing a couple years ago,” McIlraith said. “I thought I’d give it one final shot, so I signed with Sioux Falls which was an independent league team. After a short stint with them, I got an offer to play in Mexico for winter ball and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s an incredible environment and I think there are some things they do the American fans need to adapt.”

Since the decision to stay in baseball, McIlraith, or better known by his nickname the “Texan Revolver” is in his third full year playing in Mexico. He’s gotten that label from his heat on the mound. McIlraith has come into his own, topping 95 miles per hour on his fast ball on a consistent basis.

That has helped McIlraith become the Algodoneros de Unión Laguna full-time closer while having the year of his life with a 5-0 record, a 2.27 ERA with 16 saves in 35.2 innings pitched. Those numbers were enough to garner McIlraith Mexican League All-Star honors for the North Division last month.

“It was cool to get that All-Star honor,” McIlraith said. “There weren’t many of us from the team that got to that game. I love being the closer. The biggest difference here I just go out and let it loose. My arm is fresh and I’ve topped 97 mph and still getting 95 regularly. I’ve also matured as a pitcher. I think I know where to pick my spots. I know where to miss or throw a quality pitch even behind count. That was a huge problem for me in the minors.”

Tascosa graduate Thomas McIlraith was named a Mexican League North Division All-Star this summer. [Provided photo]
McIlraith also loves the way the Mexican game and the fans love for winning. He says that’s what’s always most important.

“I think this style of baseball is so much fun,” McIlraith said. “No one cares what the baseball looks like, just get the job done. It’s less about the metrics or analytics and it’s all about winning games.”

Recently retired Tascosa baseball coach Jason Patrick keeps up with McIlraith as much as he can. Patrick says it’s been a cool experience to follow his former player and learn a new education in another baseball league.

“I’m super proud of Thomas,” Patrick said. “He’s playing in the top league in Mexico. He gets to travel and make money to live his dream. I think it’s a tribute to him wanting to keep playing. He had looks for the Mets and injuries got him. When you are that level, they will find next guy, but he got this opportunity and flourished. He’s been an All-Star and thriving. What else can you say about what he’s accomplished.”

Though this isn’t the prime spotlight of the MLB and McIlraith doesn’t get the recognition or knows you can’t find Torreón without typing it on Google, he’s making money, and he’s found success at the professional level. He’s happy, and that’s what’s most important to him.

“I honestly put Major League Baseball on such a pedestal,” McIlraith said. “Sometimes it’s all about timing and certain guys are better. It just doesn’t work out for everyone, but I’m completely content with being here in Mexico right now. I’d love to get another shot in the MLB but I love the team I’m on and the college vibe we have going. Success isn’t making to the majors. It’s about being happy and doing what you love. I love competing and I’m doing that here.”

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