UBC Thunderbird baseball retires number of founder and longtime coach Terry McKaig

Ex-UBC catcher Cam Firth: “If I could describe this program in one word, it would be excellence. That’s how I always view this program and Terry (McKaig) has been this program.”

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Terry McKaig has worn many hats for the UBC Thunderbirds’ baseball program.

He was the program founder, getting it started in 1997-98 with significant financial help from local businessman Mark Hiscott. McKaig was UBC’s head coach through to 2015, when he turned over the reins to former Vancouver Canadians first baseman Chris Pritchett.

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And McKaig spearheaded the fundraising that led to the building of an indoor practice facility on-campus and the revamping of the stadium that’s steps away. The combined price tag was $10 million.

On Saturday, the Thunderbirds retired McKaig’s jersey, pulling the No. 27 that he sported during his time in the UBC dugout from circulation. It was part of the program’s annual alumni weekend.

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“If I could describe this program in one word, it would be excellence. That’s how I always view this program and Terry has been this program,” former catcher Cam Firth, a 2015 alum, told the crowd in a speech during the retirement ceremony.

“We have four decades now of baseball alums and everyone is back here today because Terry was meaningful in our lives. You got to see 10 or 11 ex-pro guys on the field today, but we had 60 guys come out this weekend and every one is successful in their own right. That’s because the bar in this program was set high from the start and that’s because of Terry.”

UBC has had 25 players selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. Left-hander Jeff Francis, who went ninth overall to the Colorado Rockies and had an 11-year, big league career, is the most notable. Francis had his UBC No. 16 retired in 2019. The two retired jersey numbers are displayed on the right-field wall.

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McKaig went into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame last April. 

He remained with the T-Birds initially as director of baseball when Pritchett came on-board. He left in 2021 for a job with B.C. Cancer. He’s since moved to his own athlete consulting business called Actuate Agency, which assists high school and university athletes building their personal brands for Name Image Likeness (NIL) sponsorship as well as college recruiting.

“We’ve had major-league scouts come through UBC who have said that there are not many NCAA Division I programs that have this kind of setup,” McKaig said of the indoor facility and stadium back when he was leaving the program in 2021. “It’s part of why I can walk away now. We’ve surpassed my dreams for this program. I feel like I’m leaving it in as good a position as possible.”

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SEwen@postmedia.com

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