There was no other place Joshua David McGrath would rather have been Saturday morning than coaching the undefeated Lynn Babe Ruth 13-year-old All-Star team at Breed Field.
Even with his face covering on due to the COVID-19 guidelines, you could feel Josh’s enthusiasm as he went through the pre-game rituals with the other Lynn coaches and their players on a bright, sunny day in the middle of Labor Day Weekend.
McGrath, 35, a former 6-foot-3-inch football and baseball standout at Lynn English High School, talked about coaching baseball during the coronavirus and what it meant for Lynn kids to have the opportunity to compete for a state title.
“First, I want to thank Jeff Earp who lives and breathes Lynn Babe Ruth and he is exactly what this organization needs – someone who is giving everything he can for these kids and giving us a great field to play on, a great complex to play at,” lauded Josh.
McGrath said he can’t imagine how difficult it is for the students in Lynn not be attending classes and playing high school sports at this time of year.
“I can’t imagine not having football – that’s my favorite sport,” said McGrath.
McGrath felt it was especially important for the Lynn 13-year-olds to have some type of baseball competition this summer.
“This is an important year for a young baseball player who is making the transition from Little League to the bigger diamond,” said McGrath. “To not have played baseball this year would have hindered the development of their skills.”
A Bona Fide Star at Lynn English
A graduate of East Lynn Little League when the games were played at Prunier Field (next to Manning Bowl), Josh McGrath played three seasons in the Lynn Babe Ruth organization before continuing his summertime participation as a four-year player in American Legion Baseball, three with Connery and one with Gautreau where he was the Skip Morrison Tournament MVP.
He was a standout four-year starting varsity catcher at Lynn English and an All-Star tackle and captain for Coach Gary Molea’s Bulldogs football team. He earned a football scholarship from UMass/Lowell but the school disbanded its football program while he was there.
His excellent blocking at tackle had helped Lynn English field a potent offense.
“Brent Tarasuik was our quarterback [at English]. Derek Hodge was the running back and Matt Curtis was tearing up the Northeastern Conference as a sophomore,” recalled McGrath. “My junior year, I was the right tackle when Brandon Guy rushed for 430 yards at Swampscott. He was picking up 30-40 yards a carry.”
Another Maroon and Gray football memory: It was Josh McGrath who stopped Classical running back Joe Freeman on a touchdown-saving tackle during the Bulldogs’ 15-8 victory over the Rams in the Thanksgiving game on the frozen tundra at then-Manning Bowl.
“It had snowed the night before and Joe Freeman, my best friend, ran the outside sweep in Classical’s Wing-T offense,” said McGrath. “As Joe was getting around the edge, I managed to slap on his shoulder pad and he slipped on the wet field. I looked at the play on film and if Joe had gotten outside, he was gone.”
Josh responded to a frequently asked question, stating that he is not related to Eric McGrath, Lynn Classical’s outstanding quarterback in that Thanksgiving game.
“Someone took a photo of us a long time ago when Eric played for Pickering and I played for Marshall,” said McGrath. “But we are not related.”
Following his college years, McGrath played five years of semi-professional football for the North Shore Generals.
Becoming a Babe Ruth Baseball coach
With his son, Jared, moving on to Lynn Babe Ruth after graduating from East Lynn Little League, Josh McGrath, who had managed a team to an ELLL Major Division championship, heard that the Babe Ruth organization needed some coaches.
“Jeff asked me if I’d be willing to be the 13-year-old division director this year and be more involved and I said, ‘sure,’’’ said McGrath. “I’m just glad to have the opportunity to coach the All-Star team.”
McGrath said one of his baseball mentors while growing up was Leon Elwell, a Babe Ruth manager.
“Leon was my mentor at the time I was entering high school, taking me to Extra Innings to work on my catching skills, blocking passed balls, keeping the baseball in front of me, and working on my release time throwing out runners at second base,” lauded McGrath. “He drafted me in Lynn Babe Ruth as a 13-year-old catcher and I played for his teams the whole time in Babe Ruth.”
Continuing to Give Back Through Coaching
In addition to his mentorship in Lynn Babe Ruth, Josh McGrath coached his son Jared’s team in the North Shore Flag Football League. He will return to football coaching when his youngest son, John, is age eligible for Flag Football.
But for now, he is happy to be close to baseball, helping Lynn kids develop their appreciation for a game he loves.
“As far as I’m concerned, even though baseball is sadly fading, I feel that men like Jeff Earp are giving these kids hope to come to the field and look forward to playing some good, competitive baseball,” said McGrath. “And I’m happy to be here teaching and coaching baseball for these players.”
And if Lynn can continue to roll on the diamond this weekend, McGrath and the Lynn players will have a state championship during what has been a challenging summer for all.