"It's time for a change," McGregor said Tuesday before his Alhouse-King Realty team defeated Old Pro, 4-0, in the semifinals of the Palo Alto Babe Ruth City Tournament at Baylands Athletic Center. "It's a good time to make the move. I was getting ready to retire from being a mechanic and the real estate prices are crazy around here."
McGregor found a nice little 160-acre ranch in Crescent, Okla., some 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City. There's a new house on the property, a stable, barn, shop and arena to show horses — something McGregor's wife, Shelly, is planning to do.
The town of Crescent, population of around 1,000, probably has more animal life than human life.
"And we're taking two horses and three dogs, so we're increasing that number," McGregor joked.
McGregor's daughter, Kristin, is in the Oklahoma City area finishing up a degree and will be wed next year. McGregor's youngest son, Rob (one of his assistant coaches), may accompany his dad on the trip.
"He will try it for a month or two," said McGregor, "but my guess is that he'll end up back here living with his brother (Jeff)."
The town of Crescent does have a high school with a new baseball field, but McGregor isn't planning on returning to coaching just yet. It may depend on how quiet things get.
The town's claim to fame may date to 1974 when Karen Silkwood died under mysterious circumstances while reportedly gathering evidence of poor safety standards at Kerr-McGee's plutonium production plant in Crescent. A Hollywood movie ("Silkwood') later was made, starring Meryl Streep in the lead role.
McGregor knows only that the area is laid back and the people are friendly. There are more tractors on the roads than Mercedes, Porsches or BMWs. McGregor, in fact, already has increased the local tractor population by one.
While Oklahoma beckons in a few weeks, there are a few chores remaining for McGregor in Palo Alto. First up is defending his city Babe Ruth title and then it's helping coach the Palo Alto Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-star team next month in the District 6 Tournament at McKelvey Park in Mountain View.
McGregor is finishing his 13th season of Babe Ruth coaching and has a chance to leave on a high note. His Alhouse-King Realty team won last season, McGregor's first city title, and the squad is primed to make it two straight on Friday night.
"We've got to be beaten twice, so we're in pretty good shape," said McGregor, whose team has won seven straight since losing to Old Pro, 11-1, on June 6.
Alhouse-King is undefeated in the tournament after edging No. 4 seed Corium International on Monday, 2-1, and then shutting down No. 2 seed Old Pro on Tuesday, 4-0. Alhouse-King will play the winner of Thursday's consolation-bracket final between Old Pro and Advanced Technology Ventures on Friday at 5:30 p.m. A second game, if necessary, will follow at 8 p.m.
ATV advanced with a 5-4 victory over Corium in Tuesday's elimination game. ATV had a 5-1 lead before Corium rallied in the seventh. It took a precise relay from left field to shortstop TJ Braff, who gunned a runner down at home to preserve the win.
McGregor can think of only one time when the undefeated team was beaten twice to lose the city title. That's when the Ed Rea-coached Badgers beat Rick Farr's Tigers.
Rea is now the scorekeeper for McGregor and Farr, one of McGregor's assistants, also will co-coach the 13-year-old all-star team with McGregor.
Rea's son, Jon, was the winning pitcher Tuesday. He twirled a five-hitter, taking a no-hitter into the fifth after retiring the first nine batters he faced. Rea allowed a leadoff walk in the fourth and another leadoff walk in the fifth before Timothy Benton ended the no-hit bid with a single.
"He's pitched a lot more than I thought he would this year," McGregor said of the diminutive Rea. "He's got everything but size. I think a lot of people overlook him because of that."
Rea, however, came up big on Tuesday with the help of three big defensive plays.
The first came in the second after Alec Haley had walked. Losing pitcher Blake Johnson chopped one in front of the plate. Both Haley and Johnson thought the ball was foul, but Alhouse-King catcher Mike York plucked the ball from the air and fired it to second to start a double play. Rea finished the inning with a strikeout, one of four.
With Alhouse-King holding a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth, Old Pro put runners on first and second with one out. Charlie Moran lined a fly ball to center, just over the reach of Shane Turner. Both runners froze until it was clear Moran couldn't catch it. Moran retrieved the ball and fired a strike to shortstop Joe Xavier, who relayed it to York — who was pulled up the third-base line.
Johnson raced past York, who turned and threw to Rea, who was covering home. Rea tagged out a sliding Johnson to complete a wild 8-6-2-1 out.
"I've never seen that play before," said Ed Rea, who has seen more than his share of games over the years.
Xavier helped Jon Rea get out of the inning without allowing a run when he leaped to grab a high chopper off the bat of Matt Martella, flipping to second baseman Matt Jost for the final out.
Old Pro got runners at third and second with out in the seventh, but Rea got a popout and a groundout to end the threat and the game.
"We've been playing really good defense all year," McGregor said.
Alhouse-King scored twice in the first, with Rea and Xavier starting things off with back-to-back singles. York was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Asher Krohn followed with a fielder's choice, which scored both Rea and Xavier.
Alhouse-King added a pair of runs in the fourth, with Jordan Piha lining an RBI single and later scoring on a wild pitch.
McGregor now heads into one more championship game, knowing full well what he'll be missing when it's over.
"Absolutely," McGregor said when asked if he'll miss coaching. "Especially when you've been doing it for so long. And, I'll miss the kids and the acquaintances from baseball. But, I really don't have any regrets. I'm leaving on a high note."
The annual District 52 all-star tournaments get under way this weekend at various sites. Palo Alto National, the defending district champ in the 11-12 division, will open Saturday against San Mateo American at Belmont/Redwood Shores' Marina Field (take Ralston Avenue east) at 11:30 a.m.
PA National won the district crown with a 3-2 win over Alpine/West Menlo a year ago, capping a run through the consolation bracket after Palo Alto dropped its opening-round game.
A handful of players from that team return and will be joined by players from the Palo Alto National 10-11 team that also won its district title in 2006.
Also entered will be teams from Palo Alto American, Ravenswood and Menlo-Atherton.
Running at the same time will be the 10-11 all-star tournament at Highlands Park in San Carlos (off Melendy) and the 9-10 tournament at Lakeshore Park (off Hillsdale Avenue), hosted by San Mateo National.
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