A lot of players are upset when they don’t get their number.
Tim McLaughlin wasn’t.
He got the number.
For the first three years of his career at Father Judge High School, McLaughlin proudly wore №16 while he was playing baseball. When it was time to grab his jersey this year before the season started, he didn’t get it right away.
Instead, every other player on the team got their Columbia blue laundry and then McLaughlin was told he was carrying on a great Crusader tradition.
“The №27 jersey goes to a senior who works hard and deserves it,” McLaughlin said. “The coaches voted on it. It’s a special number because that’s the number of Father Judge men who died in Vietnam.
“It meant a lot to me because my grandfather graduated with a lot of those men. It’s a great honor that I was picked to wear that number to honor those men. It means a lot to me and my family.”
McLaughlin, who graduated from the school earlier this month, wore it with pride and he did those he was honoring proud.
And he’ll continue to honor those men in a few months when he joins the Army with the ultimate goal of becoming a Ranger.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” said McLaughlin, who lives in Holme Circle. “I’ve been working out hard to get ready (for boot camp). I took a little break during baseball season, but since it ended, I’ve been back at it. That’s another reason the №27 meant a lot to me. It’s something I was really proud of.”
The first-year starter worked his way into the leadoff spot and he ended up hitting .360, sparking a Judge offense that helped carry the team to the Catholic League semifinals.
Every year, McLaughlin became a better player at Judge.
And as he grew bigger, so did his role on the team.
“When I got to high school, I was 5-foot and 100 pounds,” said McLaughlin, who is now 10 inches taller and about 70 pounds bigger. “I was really small. It wasn’t a problem, I made the team and I had a lot of friends because I played sports, but I was one of the smallest kids in the school.
“I worked hard at getting stronger and I grew so I became a better player, but I still wasn’t a star or anything. I came up to varsity as a sophomore at the end of the year for the playoffs, but didn’t play. Then when I was a junior, I was on the team but I wasn’t really doing anything. This was the first year I became a player who helped the team.”
That’s what made the run so important for him.
Next year, he’s hoping he’ll be able to play in a league while in the Army, but he knows his days of playing competitive baseball are over. But he couldn’t be going out on a higher note.
“This year was the best because it was a bunch of guys who were all best friends who had a great year,” McLaughlin said. “We knew it was going to be a good year because we had a lot of good players, but we had a lot of fun. The more we won, the more fun it was. And we beat a lot of good teams.”
McLaughlin was a big part of the success. And he had to make a lot of changes to make sure he got on the field.
This year, he moved from his natural position of catcher to right field so he could get in the lineup and also so he could give the Crusaders some stability in the outfield.
And he moved to the leadoff spot and grew into a strong hitter.
“This wasn’t my best year, this was really the only year I had,” McLaughlin said. “I never thought I would be a leadoff guy because I am not a fast runner, I was a catcher. I worked hard to contribute, and it worked out.”
Now, he’s got more working out to do.
Though he’s not sure when he leaves, McLaughlin anticipates heading out in late August or early September, and there’s a lot of work to be done before he leaves.
He’s hoping to become an even better runner over the next few months, and the goal is to put on about 10 pounds of muscle. That will require a lot of time in the gym, but he’s ready to put in the work.
Whatever work he puts in now will pay off when he’s training for the Army.
“I know it’s hard, so I want to be stronger and definitely be faster,” said McLaughlin, who will likely go to college after he’s done with the Army. “I have to do that. Other than that, I’ll just spend time, hanging out and maybe go down the shore.
“I’m definitely going to be in better shape. I have been working hard to get in shape, but I still have work to do.” ••