Former James Island High, Citadel star Chris McGuiness gets a taste of big leagues with Rangers

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki leaps over the Texas Rangers' Chris McGuiness (21) after making the throw to first in the sixth inning at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. Toronto won, 6-1. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

Richard W. Rodriguez

Growing up on the playgrounds around James Island, Chris McGuiness was always known as Brian McGuiness’ little brother.

But after Chris McGuiness made his Major League Baseball debut with the Texas Rangers earlier this month, Brian has quickly discovered that his younger brother has now taken over the family name.

“Everyone just kind of knew Chris as my little brother when we were kids,” said Brian, who played baseball at James Island High School and the College of Charleston. “Now, it’s the other way around. I’m Chris’ brother, which I don’t mind a bit. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

When Brian would go to baseball practice or get together with his friends and play on the neighborhood ball fields, Chris, four years younger than his brother, wouldn’t be too far behind. It didn’t take long for Brian to realize his younger brother might be something of a prodigy.

“Chris would go to his practice when he was like 10 or 11 years old and then hang around and practice with us,” Brian said. “It was pony league and we were 14 or 15 and even then he was better than half the guys on my team.”

Chris got the news about his promotion the “The Show” on June 5, but was sworn to secrecy until the following day when the Rangers made it official. He said it was tough not being able to tell his close friends. One of the first calls he made was to Brian.

“I called my fiancé, my parents and then Brian,” Chris, 25, said in a recent telephone interview. “My parents have sacrificed so much to help me achieve my dream. Brian was always there for me. Growing up, we’d play in the backyard and out in the parks and I’m not sure I’d be where I am without all of them.”

In all, McGuiness spent about two weeks in the big leagues with the Rangers. He played in 10 games, collecting six hits, with one double and one RBI.

McGuiness was called up when the Rangers placed starting first baseman Mitch Moreland on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.

Ironically, McGuiness joined the Rangers in Boston, the team that had originally drafted the former Citadel star in 2009 in the 13th round. The Rangers acquired McGuiness in 2010 in a trade that involved catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

“It was nice to get to see Fenway Park,” McGuiness said. “I took a lot of pictures.”

The following night, he made his major league debut in Toronto against the Blue Jays. His fiancé, Allyson Townsend, and his parents, Anna and Tony, flew up for the game and watched him go hitless in three at-bats.

“There were some butterflies that first game,” McGuiness said.

The next game, McGuiness went 2 for 4 and drove in a run. McGuiness’ first major league hit was an RBI double in the fourth inning of the Rangers’ 6-4 win over Toronto. He drove a pitch from Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson to the wall in left-center field to score David Murphy. The Rangers saved the ball for McGuiness.

“I still have the ball and it’s something I’ll hang on to the rest of my life,” McGuiness said. “It was nice to get that first hit out of the way.”

After the game, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus gave him the traditional shaving cream pie to face during his first post-game TV interview.

“Elvis said, ‘welcome to the Rangers,’ ” McGuiness said. “I think that’s when you truly feel like you’ve become part of the team. It’s was great to win the game and to feel like you’d played a part in the victory.”

Unfortunately for McGuiness, his parents and fiancé missed his first major league hit. They were at the game, but had to leave the Rogers Centre in the third inning to catch a flight home.

“That was the only downside to that game,” McGuiness said. “I wish they could have stayed around to see me get that hit.”

When Moreland was healthy again, McGuiness was sent down to Round Rock, the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, on June 18.

“I knew going up that it wasn’t going to be a long-term deal,” McGuiness said. “When (Moreland) got healthy I knew I was headed back down. I was just thankful to get the opportunity to fulfill my dream. I wish I could have hit better, but it was a great experience. I’ve got no complaints.”

Despite hitting just .176, McGuiness said he’ll be better prepared for his return to the major leagues.

“I learned so much in the little time I was up there,” McGuiness said. “It’s such a mental game up there. The pitchers are thinking two or three pitches ahead in the count. That’s the biggest difference. I felt like they were a step ahead of me and I know I’ve got to get better at that.”