Foresters’ star turned down big payday from Diamondbacks to play for UCLA.
Matt McLain has a lot of confidence in his ability to play baseball.
That was evident when he turned down the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school two years ago. McLain, a two-time prep All-American at Beckman High in Irvine, was the first-round pick (25th overall) of the Diamondbacks in 2018.
With the chance at pocketing significant money and launching his professional career, McLain, instead, opted to attend UCLA on a baseball scholarship. It’s the road he’s traveled so far to get to Santa Barbara, where he is the starting shortstop for Bill Pintard’s Foresters.
“It takes a lot of courage to do it,” Pintard said of turning down a first-round offer. “We’re really fortunate to have him. He was probably going to play for TEAM USA this summer before they shut down because of COVID. Matt turned down the Diamondbacks and probably figures he can do better than the 25th overall pick coming out of UCLA.”
After starting 60 of 61 games as a true freshman in 2019, McLain was off to a tremendous start to his sophomore campaign at UCLA before everything was done in by the coronavirus in early March.
He was hitting .397 with four home runs in 58 at-bats over 13 games, and was one of the reasons the Bruins, who were 13-2 when the season was cancelled, were ranked No. 2 in the nation. While it has always been his dream to play Major League Baseball, McLain said turning down the Diamondbacks and opting to go to UCLA was not a difficult decision.
“Everything will take care of itself in the end, I’m not really worried about that,” he said. “UCLA has always been my dream ever since I was a kid. I would always go to the football games and the baseball games, and to get that opportunity to go out there and play for UCLA, play at Jackie Robinson Stadium against some of the best teams in the country in the PAC-12, I couldn’t resist that offer.”
Growing up in Tustin made it easy for McLain to attend UCLA sporting events.
Today, there doesn’t seem to be a shred of regret in his decision to put his professional baseball career on hold. McLain is as athletic and as talented with a bat in his hand as you’ll find anywhere in the country on the collegiate level. He says he looks forward to his professional career and claims he doesn’t look back at the decision he made to go to UCLA.
“It was an easy decision because I knew what I wanted from the start,” he said. “Academics are also important to me, which was another reason I chose to go to UCLA. I want to get my schoolwork in and get my baseball work in, and go from there.”
McLain is one of five Bruins on this year’s Foresters team.
Because of COVID-19, there is no Cape Cod League season, nor is there a TEAM USA campaign. It meant a lot of talent was floating out there for Pintard and his staff to grab, and McLain says he’s happy he has a team on which to play this summer, given the circumstances.
“So many places have been shut down, so many summer leagues have been shut down, and to get the chance to go out there and play, especially in Santa Barbara with the Foresters and coach Pintard, I feel very fortunate,” he said. “It’s been an awesome experience so far, and I look forward to getting out there every single day and getting the chance to play.”
McLain had a sacrifice fly and stole two bases to help lead Santa Barbara to an 8-2 win over the Texas Express on Tuesday night at Pershing Park.
McLain’s UCLA teammate Pat Caulfield had the big night for the Foresters. Caulfield finished 3-for-3 at the plate, scored three runs and stole four bases. He stole second, third and home in the third inning, when Santa Barbara jumped on top, 2-0.
Former Santa Barbara High standout Bryce Warrecker pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief for the Foresters. Warrecker is headed to Cal Poly on a baseball scholarship. After Texas tied the game with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth, the Foresters regained the lead with two in the bottom of the inning.
Santa Barbara (5-1) then put the game away with two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth. The two teams resume their five-game series tonight at Pershing Park at 6 p.m. No spectators are allowed.