McGough and Team USA play for gold Saturday
Scott McGough is getting the chance to play for his home country, and to do it on home turf.
When Team USA takes the field for its first game of this year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo, on Friday against Israel, McGough will be in the bullpen for the American team. Unlike most of his teammates, he didn't have to travel far to get there – McGough is currently in his third season as a reliever for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League, a rival of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars whose home park is Yokohama Stadium, which will host most of the Olympic baseball competition.
A native of Pennsylvania, McGough was on the first team in the modern era of Oregon baseball. He made 74 appearances for the Ducks from 2009-11, and in 2015 he became the first Oregon alum since the program's reboot to make the Major Leagues. McGough made six appearances that season for the Miami Marlins, after being drafted in the fifth round in 2011.
In 2010, McGough played for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. At the time, that seemed like the biggest stage on which he'd ever get to don the red, white and blue; baseball was contested at the Olympics from 1992-2008 but wasn't in 2012 and 2016. The organizing committee for the Tokyo Games bid to bring baseball back to the Olympics, however, and McGough will once again get a chance to suit up for Team USA.
"The fact that baseball is back in and I was asked to play? Absolutely it's a dream come true," he said in a phone interview earlier this month.
Scott McGough played for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team in 2010.
After breaking through for six big-league appearances in 2015, McGough spent the next three seasons back in the minors. He was pitching for Albuquerque in 2018 when a scout from the Swallows was in attendance for a game; Albuquerque is the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and McGough re-signed with the organization for another year only to have his contract bought out by the Swallows.
The ensuing three seasons have been an outstanding second act in McGough's professional career. He has a 3.19 ERA in 154 appearances since 2019, including a 2.39 ERA with 16 saves and 53 strikeouts in 37.2 innings so far this season.
"The older you get, the more you figure out things with your body – how to pitch, what to throw a guy," said McGough, now 31. "You read stuff a little bit better. Yeah, I absolutely feel great. Everything's going really well this year."
— Lauren McGough (@LaurenThom2) July 13, 2021
The milestones haven't just come on the diamond. In the fall, McGough became a father when his wife, former UO soccer player Lauren Thompson, gave birth to a daughter. McGough was home in the United States for eight weeks at the time, but he returned to Japan on Jan. 14 to begin preparing for this season and was finally joined by his wife and daughter in late June.
The McGoughs live in an apartment about a quarter-mile from Japan National Stadium, which is hosting the opening and closing ceremonies as well as track and field competition for the Olympic Games. Despite that, McGough planned to relocate to the Olympic Village – he intends to soak up every bit of this Olympic experience.
"I'm going to do absolutely everything I possibly can," he said.
Scott McGough made 74 appearances for the Ducks from 2009-11, and was taken in the MLB Draft's fifth round in 2011.
Team USA qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by going 4-0 at the WSBC Baseball Americas Qualification Event in late May and early June. McGough, who had expressed interest in playing for Team USA once baseball was added as an Olympic sport for Tokyo 2020, was in a pool of players considered for that event, his agent told him.
"He was like, your name's on a list – but it's a long list," McGough recalled with a laugh.
Former UO pitcher Jimmie Sherfy did play in that event, pitching a scoreless inning in a win over Canada on June. In the interim, Sherfy got another shot in the big leagues, with the San Francisco Giants and then the Los Angeles Dodgers, and McGough was added to the roster for the Summer Olympics.
— Scott McGough (@Scooter_McGough) July 24, 2021
Recently it was announced that no fans would be able to attend Olympic competition, as Japan deals with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. McGough had been anticipating the chance for his fellow members of Team USA to experience crowds he likened to those at European soccer matches for their passion and enthusiasm.
When he's had family and friends visit Tokyo and attend games, McGough said, "they all say the same thing: 'This is nuts. We've never seen anything like this.' It's just a really, really cool experience."
Unfortunately, McGough and the two other members of Team USA currently playing in Japan, outfielder Tyler Austin and pitcher Nick Martinez, won't be able to enjoy seeing their teammates exposed to the passionate Japanese fan base. But that can't dampen McGough's enthusiasm for his upcoming Olympic experience.
"I'm going to take in every moment," he said. "I'm going to eat it up."