Ex-Hawk goes pro, comes back


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Thirteen years in professional baseball have taken Iowa volunteer assistant coach Jim Magrane all over the globe, with stops in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Taiwan, South Korea, and Italy.

Signed by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000, Magrane served stints in the minors with the Tampa Bay’s and the Washington Nationals’ organizations before embarking on a world tour of professional baseball.

In close to 200 career games, he took the mound in seven countries on three continents, including stints in the Chinese (Taiwan) Professional Baseball League and the Italian Serie A1.

Now that his world tour is over and he has settled into retirement from playing, he has returned to his home state, where he first picked up a glove, to coach the team he grew up rooting for — the Hawkeyes.

“Once I finished my career as a player, I wanted to get into coaching, and being that I live in Iowa City, this really was the perfect fit for me,” Magrane said.

He was drafted out of high school by the Mets in 1996, but he chose to go to school at Iowa before attempting a pro career.

Now, not quite 20 years later, Magrane is back in town, volunteering his time coaching the team that gave him his start.

“It really was a pretty simple decision,” he said. “Coach Heller called me up one day when I was only four blocks away and said there was an opportunity for me to come in and get started, so I took it.”

It’s sounds funny, but Magrane might be the most overly qualified volunteer coach in the country.

After being signed by Tampa Bay, he was named the Ray’s organization pitcher of the year for the 2000 season after he went 12-5 with a 2.76 ERA, including 162 strikeouts in 173 innings. He led all Devil Rays’ minor-league pitchers in wins and ERA.

From there, Magrane enjoyed success pretty much everywhere he went.

In 2010, he was named the Chinese (Taiwan) Professional Baseball Championship series MVP, then finished his career with an Italian Series MVP in 2013.

Playing professional ball for more than a decade is an experience that Magrane says helps him better connect with the players he now helps to coach.

“It absolutely helps,” he said. “The way I look at a baseball game is through the lens of a guy who was a pitcher for 20 years, and now I’m seeing it through the eyes of someone who sits behind the dugout as a coach as well.”

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to see him coaching shortly after retirement: After all, he has baseball in his blood.

Magrane’s uncle Joe Magrane spent eight years in the major leagues, playing for the Cardinals, Angels, and White Sox from 1987-96. In 1988, he led the National League in ERA (2.18).

Jim Magrane has adjusted well to his new team in the few weeks he’s been around, learning his role in an all-new coaching staff much in the same way that his players have.

“The biggest adjustment has just been learning the way everyone prepares for games,” he said. “I’ve been learning what my role is and how I fit in as well and how I can use some of the intuition I’ve developed over the past 20 years to help the guys.”

So far, his intuition has been spot on, and the Hawkeyes’ confidence has grown exponentially as a result.

“The competition is only going to get better, but the fact that we’ll be going in there having played well so far has given us a big boost,” he said.

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