As a 32-year-old third baseman, Casey McGehee didn’t exactly feel like a rookie when he made his major-league return with the Miami Marlins this past season. It was more like a rebirth of sorts for McGehee, who was named the Sporting News’ National League Comeback Player of the Year on Monday.
McGehee, who spent the 2013 season playing in Japan after his career had tailed off in the majors, came back to life with the Marlins, batting cleanup behind Giancarlo Stanton and fielding his position with aplomb.
He led the Marlins by hitting .319 with runners in scoring position and ranked fourth in the NL in hits (177). He led NL third basemen with a .979 fielding percentage.
“I think the biggest thing for me, not that I didn’t enjoy playing before, but sometimes when something has been taken from you a bit, you enjoy it that much more,” McGehee said of his rebound season.
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Hoping to resurrect his career in the majors, McGehee signed a one-year deal worth $1.1 million last winter. With his steady play, he turned into a bargain for the Marlins.
“It’s a testament to the people I have around me – my family, my agent, my parents, everybody,” McGehee said. “When I would talk about wanting to come back, they supported me. There were probably a lot of people outside that circle that still had their doubts, and they probably still have their doubts, but that close circle for me was a good support system. I didn’t feel like I was doing it alone.”
McGehee became the first Marlin to win the Sporting News comeback award, which is voted on by fellow big-league players. He received 26 votes to out-distance Giants pitcher Tim Hudson, the runner-up with 17 votes. Matt Kemp of the Dodgers was third with 15 votes.
“I was able to enjoy coming to the field every day, even when we were in some of our tough stretches,” said McGehee, who played in 160 games. “I couldn’t wait to get to the field, just like it was Opening Day the whole year.”