Brotherly love: Reunited in Arizona, McLain trio leave their baseball mark

Cincinnati Reds prospect infielder Matt McLain earned 2020 Second Team All-American honors at UCLA and is the only player at UCLA besides Gerrit Cole to be drafter in a higher spot then their initial draft selection. (Photo by Austin Ford/Cronkite News)

Outfielder Nick McLain transferred to Arizona State after playing one year at UCLA. (Photo by Austin Ford/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Growing up in Southern California, the McLain brothers did everything together. From playing baseball, golfing or lifting barbells in the weight room, the trio were always competing.

Separated by a three-year age difference, the brothers have especially fond memories of playing baseball in their Tustin backyard. Now, for the first time since high school, the brothers have been reunited in Arizona.

Matt, a 23-year-old shortstop, just finished a stint in the Arizona Fall League. Sean, a 21-year-old shortstop with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Single-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, always wanted what was best for his brothers while Nick, a 19-year-old Arizona State outfielder, strives to be better than his older brothers at everything.

“We played a ton of sports. We didn’t know if it was gonna be baseball, football, lacrosse or basketball. We literally didn’t know what it was gonna be, and then it ended up being baseball, but, It was always a super competitive household,” Sean said of their time at Arnold D. Beckman High School in Orange County.

“So it was my junior year, Matthew’s senior year, and Nick’s freshman year. Nick played first base, Matthew played shortstop and I played right field for our team. That was definitely one of the years to remember. I’ll remember that year and I’ll tell my kids about that story one day.”

All good times must come to an end, however. Sean moved on to Arizona State, Nick finished high school and Matt was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 25th overall pick of the 2018 MLB draft.

Matt turned down the Arizona Diamondbacks’ offer so he could attend UCLA, where in three seasons with the Bruins he earned 2020 Second Team All-American honors. He became the only other player besides Gerrit Cole at UCLA to be drafted in a higher spot after turning down their first draft offer.

Matt was selected by the Reds with the No. 17 pick in the 2021 MLB draft, eight spots higher than in 2018. While most thought he was crazy for turning down his original draft offer, his brothers encouraged him to do what was best for him.

Reds prospect Matt McLain was drafted by the Reds at No. 17 in the 2021 MLB draft. (Photo by Austin Ford/Cronkite News)

Reds prospect Matt McLain was drafted by the Reds at No. 17 in the 2021 MLB draft. (Photo by Austin Ford/Cronkite News)

“Matthew story’s crazy. People told him when he got drafted to like, not turn (down) the money to go to UCLA, they were like, ‘Dude, you’re crazy’ and he proved a lot of people wrong,” Sean said. “And when he did get drafted the second time, I was so excited for him. I was actually on FaceTime ‘cause I was playing with Team USA and I was in North Carolina.

“I didn’t shed a tear, but I was very happy to see him do that. That was very cool.”

After making his way through the Reds minor league system, Matt was asked by the organization to play in the Arizona Fall League with the Glendale Desert Dogs, where he reunited his brothers for the first time since high school.

The Desert Dogs lost in extra innings to the Surprise Saguaros in last Saturday’s championship game, but the brothers’ opportunity to spend time with each other was unmatched.

“We live 10 minutes from each other right now while I’m out here,” Matt said. “But yeah, we do spend some time together. We’re best friends and we’re pretty much all the same people.”

Sean’s path differed from his older brother. He knew he had to put in extra work if he was going to make it to the major leagues. However, seeing what his brother was able to do gave him the push to succeed at Arizona State.

“I didn’t get drafted outta high school, but got drafted outta college,” Sean said. “So I knew I had to go to a college that I would develop the most, which was Arizona State. And I knew that I was next, but I knew that it wasn’t gonna be easy. So I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna go to Arizona State, I wanna develop as a baseball player.’”

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Sean played two seasons in a Sun Devils uniform before he was chosen in the fifth round of the 2022 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and unlike his brother Matt, the decision for him to sign was a no-brainer.

“So at that point, after college, it wasn’t really like, ‘Oh, do I go back to school?’ because then I would lose all my leverage ‘cause I’d be a senior,” Sean said. “It was basically like, I’m gonna go to a team. Whenever the team drafts me, I’m gonna go. I saw my name on the TV for the Los Angeles Dodgers and I honestly was stoked. It was a no-brainer with the Dodgers. I couldn’t be with a better organization.”

While Matt and Sean attended different universities, both played in the Pac-12. When it became time for Nick, the youngest brother, to choose where he wanted to play college baseball, he was torn.

However, it made all the difference knowing that he had his brothers’ support without one swaying his decision over the other. Nick committed to UCLA, but instantly regretted his decision.

“I committed to UCLA and then I ended up coming out here (to Arizona) like two weeks later with my brother Sean and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I think I messed up,’” Nick said.

While he never felt comfortable in his one season with the Bruins, it helped him to make the decision to transfer to Arizona State. When Nick officially transferred, Sean made his transition easier than expected.

“When he came here, I gave him a call and I said, ‘Hey, go do your thing, kid.’ And he’s liked it ever since,” Sean said. “He loves the coaching staff and loves the guys in the locker room. So I’m really happy for him. It was definitely a full circle. It was a good thing for me.”

With the brothers spending their offseasons together in Arizona, the three will have the opportunity to train together at Arizona State. Although the goal is to play in the major leagues together, their brotherly competition never really goes away.

“I mean I hope to pass them in everything they do, to be honest,” Nick said. “I hope to be better in every aspect of baseball.”

Lauren Hertz LOHR-in hertz (she/her)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Lauren Hertz expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media production. Hertz has interned with PBS NewsHour West, AZCentral Sports and CBS New York.

Austin Ford aws-tin fohrd
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Austin Ford expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Ford is interning with PBS NewsHour West.