Norwin’s Max McDowell matures in Yankees system

Of course, Max McDowell wanted to be there in person when the New York Yankees took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a recent two-game series at PNC Park.

The minor league catcher would have given just about anything to get a call-up to join the big New York club on the North Shore, 20 miles from his hometown of North Huntingdon, and play in front of his family and friends. friends.

“It’s my dream to play at this stadium,” he said.

He would have given anything – except time away from his new baby.

Dreams can come true in other ways, even for professional athletes.

McDowell’s time could come to play in the majors, and the Norwin graduate is as patient as possible for the opportunity to move up one more rung. But it really is time for him to be something else: a big league family man.

“I’m growing up,” McDowell, 28, said.

A catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, McDowell married on New Year’s Day 2020, when minor league baseball was shut down due to the pandemic.

Jump to that July 3 when he and his wife Emily (Crisman) welcomed Maddox John McDowell into the world.

Max McDowell was given four days of paternity leave to be with loved ones.

“I was at home, so I watched the games (at PNC Park) on TV,” said McDowell, who owns a home in North Huntingdon and runs the Norwin Baseball Academy. “I thought about going down to train with the guys. I needed to be there for my wife and our little guy. I’ve been so lucky to see life transform (around baseball). That happens.”

McDowell also gained some perspective along the way. The Yankees-Pirates series helped give him insight into his life — past, present, and future.

“I’ve been grinding for eight years,” he said. “I tell people I have a doctorate in baseball.”

If he doesn’t wear stripes for the Yankees at the highest level, he’ll be changing diapers and growing his family. And that’s good too.

“My son will be running around the bases in no time,” he said. “We are starting our family. Baseball is my dream, but I’ve been so blessed off the field.

McDowell was hitting .187 with five doubles, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored in 45 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, who play in the International League. The RailRiders play home games at PNC Field in Moosic – not quite PNC Park, but there are plenty of guys looking to make some money.

As any minor league player knows, promotion can be an injury. A vector of “The Show” is often luck.

Look at McDowell’s friend and fellow Norwin alum, JJ Matijevic, who found staying power in his second call-up with the Houston Astros. Both have been injury replacements for starters.

Matijevic, who played in the minors for five seasons and made the jump from Triple-A Sugar Land, has homered twice this year.

Related stories:

• Norwin grad Matijevic strikes again in Astros’ no-hitter win over Yankees

• Former Norwin JJ Matijevic recalled to majors with Houston Astros

• Norwin graduate Max McDowell earns his stripes with the Yankees taxi team

“He homered at Yankee Stadium,” McDowell said. “He beat me to it.

“I talk a lot with JJ. It was fun to follow him. Baseball is a crazy game. When the time comes, you have to be ready to go.

This era almost made an appearance earlier this season. But it wasn’t meant to be.

An illness in receiver Kyle Higashioka sent the Yankees into Triple-A for a replacement.

Clearly on the next man’s radar, McDowell was distracted. He was in a Massachusetts hospital getting treatment for an injury.

“It happened the day I hurt my hand because of receiver interference,” McDowell said. “My hand was quite swollen. I understood. It’s unfortunate, but it’s all part of it. »

Ships passed in the night. The Bronx Bombers went with Rob Brantly, and McDowell eventually returned to work with the RailRiders.

He’s hoping for a similar chance when he’s healthy and ready, even if it’s for a third string.

“I hope the opportunity will arise,” he said. “Everyone here tells you to be patient. I’ve played this game all my life and been with the Yankees for three years. I had a good spring…I’m looking forward to this opportunity.

McDowell, who has 16 career home runs and 133 RBIs, could be with a new team next year. He signed a one-year contract with the Yankees before this season.

“Who knows? Maybe I’ll call the Pirates,” he said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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