American Left-Handed pitcher Max MacNabb’s international adventures are well chronicled on our site as part of the February 2017 Feature International Star post (read about his travels here: http://isbaseball.com/wpv2/february-2017-featured-international-star-max-macnabb).
Since then, Max’s journey has taken an unexpected and unique turn after he helped pitch the 3n2 International Stars to their fourth Prague Baseball Week Championship title in five years on July 1st. After throwing a complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts vs. the Czech National Team and earning the pitcher of the tournament award, he signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles organization, and went from pitching and hitting in the Czech Extra-League for Skokani Olomouc to pitching in Baltimore’s organization for the remainder of the season.
The 24-year old from Encinitas, California was in the middle of his summer break with Olomouc at the Prague airport bound for Paris when the Orioles called and told him to head to Sarasota, Florida to begin his second attempt at affiliated professional baseball in the U.S. After not pitching in a game for over a month, Max picked up where he left off and in 2 outings for the Orioles Gulf Coast League (Rookie Level) team he dominated opposing batters in 5 innings, striking out 9, allowing just 1 hit and no walks, and earning himself a promotion to Class-A Delmarva Shorebirds. In his next two outings (both starts) for Delmarva, Max threw 9 innings, struck out 4 batters, allowing no walks and just 3 earned runs. Across two minor league levels for the Orioles in 2017 Max concluded the season with a won-loss record of 1-1 and pitched 18 innings with a strikeout to walk ratio of 13:2 and an E.R.A. of 3.50.
This is Max’s second time playing affiliated baseball in the U.S. having started his career with the San Diego Padres organization in 2014 after playing collegiality at the University of San Diego. After being released by the Padres, Max took his game overseas where his stops included the MacArthur Orioles in New South Wales, Australia and the Senart Templiers in the top French league. Max started the 2017 season pitching for the Adelaide Bite in the Australian Baseball League and playing for East Torrens in the South Australia state league competition before heading to Europe to play for Skokani Olomouc in the Czech Republic and then finally, concluding the season with Delmarva in the U.S.
We had a chance to catch-up with Max during the off-season at his home north of San Diego and asked him about his amazing journey in 2017 and what he has in store for 2018. Read the interview below….
International Stars (IS): You came back to Prague Baseball Week for a second time after things didn’t go very well for you personally in 2016. Tell us about the difference between the two years for you?
Max MacNabb (MM): I had a rough start in one of the games during Prague Baseball Week 2016 and part of the reason for me to come back in 2017 was in a way to make up for that. As far as the difference baseball-wise on the field I would say the big thing was just [my] mentality going to Prague the first year. Everything was new and I wasn’t sure I belonged. But this second year I was 100% confident in myself and in my ability.
IS: What was your mindset like going into the Championship game vs. Czech National Team this year? Since you were playing in the Czech League already with Skokani Olomouc, did you think that helped your performance knowing the opposition better?
MM: I think having faced some of the Czech National guys helped a little bit but mainly I was just focused on the same things – making quality pitches and just competing. The mentality was just pure confidence in knowing that we had to win the game and there was no way I was going to let us lose.
IS: Describe to us what it felt like when you got the call that the Orioles were going to sign you. Was that something you were expecting? How did your family, friends, and teammates respond?
MM: Getting the call about the Orioles wanting to sign me was pretty unbelievable and coincidentally [I was] in the airport in Prague, only about two hours from flying to France to see some friends so it was a bit of a whirlwind. The first thing I did was call my parents to let them know and as you can imagine they were extremely excited for me to get another opportunity playing professional baseball in the states.
IS: What was it like going from the Australian season to the European season and then mid-way through, flying to Florida to report to the Orioles complex?
MM: The transition to Florida was not very difficult to be honest. Once you have done the international baseball circuit for a bit you get really used to traveling [and] being [in] places you’ve never been and playing with teammates you just met. So in a weird way I think it actually can really prepare you for minor league baseball and kind of the unknown of professional ball.
IS: Tell us about your Orioles teammates and coaches reactions when they found out you had just been playing in the Czech league in Europe. Did they even know that baseball existed over there?
MM: Yeah it’s pretty funny most people over here [in the U.S.] don’t even realize baseball is played in Australia much less in France or the Czech Republic, so it definitely blew a few peoples minds hearing my story where I’ve been in the last couple years.
IS: What are the differences in being signed to play affiliated ball in the States to playing abroad in Europe and Australia?
MM: The differences with affiliated ball are just what you would expect; to play every single day it’s obviously quite a lot more serious than the vast majority of overseas clubs and of course the competition is a bit better. For me, the main thing is just to have fun, go out and play, [and] treat it for what it is – which is really just another game for another team in another country
IS: When you were first released by the San Diego Padres in 2014 did you ever think you would have another crack at playing professional baseball in America? Is there anything you are doing differently this time or that you learned about the game or yourself from your overseas adventures?
MM: It probably took me about a year after being released and of playing overseas to even really want to get re-signed to play affiliated, if at all. I was a bit discouraged and didn’t enjoy my first experience so I was just having a lot of fun playing, traveling, and enjoying international baseball. Can’t really point to any one thing specifically that changed but I do know that I’ve learned a lot about my body and my pitching that has helped me get to where I am today, and continuing to adapt as a pitcher and find ways to get guys out is really what it’s all about.
IS: What does 2018 have in store for you and what do you hope to accomplish this year in professional baseball in America?
MM: 2018 has another baseball season in store for me and I plan on making it the best one yet. Expectation wise, I just hope to be pitching in important games for the Orioles organization and continue to get better and grow as a pitcher and a person. I have faith that my ability is enough to help the Orioles at the highest level.
IS: What has been your overall experience with the International Stars organization been like?
MM: My overall experience with International Stars is that it has given me some of the best memories both on and off the baseball field [that] I have had, up to this point. And without Prague Baseball Week and the International Stars community, I certainly wouldn’t have the opportunity I have now.
We would like to thank Max for taking the time to answer our questions as he prepares for the 2018 season and we wish him the best of luck as he moves forward with his career for the Baltimore Orioles organization.