FSS Alum Adam Macko takes the road less traveled to pro ball

BRIDGEWATER, NJ — Back in his native Slovakia, a young Adam Macko was just looking for something to do with his friends.

Soccer and hockey were the popular sports there at the time — and still are, of course — but they liked something different.

Baseball.

“It was first day of Grade 1, there was, they called it a tryout, but it was whoever wanted to play could play,” Macko told FSS Plus in a recent sit-down interview.

“It was just hitting ball pit balls into a net, and playing catch with these weird big old gloves on our hands and we just had no idea what was going on. But, it was a lot of fun. It was really different, so it was intriguing for us, because it was always soccer or hockey. Outside of school and playing around, we thought baseball would be fun.”

It’s turned into a career ever since.

Quite a good one for the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series alum, too.

Now a 23-year-old lefty starter in the Toronto Blue Jays system, where he’s finding success in his first foray into the Double-A level with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Macko has taken a rather unique path to get there, one that started back in his home country, and eventually followed him when he and his family moved to Ireland. Macko’s brother had moved there first, and had nothing but good things to say about it there, ultimately convincing the rest of the family to move there as well as they awaited the results of a visa application to move to Canada.

“The coaches we had in Slovakia were great, but it was more so just to have fun and throw strikes,” Macko recalls.

“I started learning more when we moved to Ireland, and it wasn’t necessarily to just throw harder, but I just wanted to emulate who the best pitchers were at that time. I wanted to look like him, I wanted to feel like him, and I wanted to have that mindset that I was him when I was pitching. So, it was to be more like somebody else. I never really thought of it as learning about mechanics, but simultaneously I did as it went on. There was more and more stuff on YouTube about how to pitch and different mechanical checkpoints or whatever you want to call them, so then I started to learn more in depth about that.”

But, who did he watch? And how did he watch?

Justin Verlander and David Price, later on,” Macko says. “I was watching the righties. I was playing, I think it was MLB 2K13, and David Price was on the cover, and I was pitching with him and the game, and he was pretty good. I liked pitching with him, so I wanted to have a look at what he’s got.”

Macko famously helped teach himself how to pitch by watching YouTube, and still studies some of the game’s top arms today, pointing out names such as Tyler Glasnow and Jacob deGrom while saying he actually is able to absorb information better while watching righties despite being a southpaw himself. But, to this point in his childhood, he’d never been able to see a game in person or even see one on television until the family ultimately did make the move to Canada, when the restaurant he was at with his family just so happened to have a Blue Jays game on.

Shortly thereafter, he’d truly start his own path to try to get there himself one day, going to the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball in Vauxhall, Alberta, a remote spot in Western Canada with just over 1,000 people living in the town.

“The coach that got me there, he was the first coach that I’d ever met in Canada,” Macko recalls.

“It was a winter camp in Edmonton, and I went there. It was the Spruce Grove White Sox players that were there, and Kevin Inch was the coach, and I thought about maybe trying out for house league or A ball, the lower levels. He was the first one that kind of opened up my eyes and asked if I’d be interested in trying for Triple-A next year. I thought that was crazy, but I was very grateful. I had a really good relationship with him, and he helped me out with baseball a lot. He had connections with Coach Mac (Les McTavish) and that was through his brother, because his brother played in Vauxhall, Steven Inch, and he ended up getting drafted by the Phillies…Kevin got me in touch with Les, and then I went out to try out up there, and I thought it was such a cool opportunity. Just living in dorms and learning how to take care of myself was really intriguing to me, I thought it helped me grow up. That was the best decision I’ve made as far as where to go.”

Macko credits McTavish, who has experience at numerous Future Stars Series events, for helping to guide him during that time, saying that he was instrumental in keeping him focused and guiding a work ethic that had him wanting to do everything all the time.

It was also through his time at Vauxhall that he started to get on the radar in the United States, including with the Future Stars Series, where he pitched for the World Team at International Week in 2018, held that year at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Playing baseball in Canada, it’s great competition, but getting to go down into the US and test myself – like playing travel ball in Georgia or going to those Future Stars Series events or any of those competitions – you get a little glimpse of success, and it almost feels like it’s impossible to do well once you get there,” Macko said. “Once you start going around, you see they’re still players made of flesh and bone, and if you can get a little bit of success there, it gives you a little more confidence that maybe I can do this.”

One year later, with the No. 216 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Seattle Mariners took Macko with their seventh-round selection.

“I was super nervous about two months before the Draft, because I had a feeling I was going to go,” he said. “I wasn’t throwing super hard, but a couple people told me that if they want more velo, you’re going to go a little bit later, but if they think you can get that velo, you might go sooner. I didn’t really know where I would fall in that. I was told I would go anywhere from fourth to sixth round, but where I went I think was a good spot and where I should have gone for where I was in my development at that time. It was nerve wracking, and every pick that goes by, you’re asking if this is actually going to happen. Once it did, I was floating the rest of the day. So much weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I was feeling on top of the world. That was a goal that I’d had for a really long time, so it was awesome that it came true.”

Macko enjoyed a brief pro debut later that year, splitting time between the-then rookie ball Arizona League and then-short season A-Ball Northwest League before losing all of 2020 when the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite some injuries, he was advancing at a level-per-year pace in the Mariners organization, and made up for lost time after the 2022 season was over with seven outings in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Several days after that, the phone rang. He was getting traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, shipped north along with Erik Swanson in exchange for Teoscar Hernandez.

“I was sleeping, and my girlfriend wakes me up to say you’re getting a call from this random number,” Macko said.

“I was like, ‘Oh, just leave it, it’s spam.’ I didn’t have (Seattle AGM) Andy McKay’s number, I guess, saved. He was calling me, and he sent me a text to call him ASAP. I called him immediately back, and it was a couple days after I got back from the Fall League, and he thanked me for everything I’d done and had some very nice words, that the Blue Jays would be in touch. Sure enough, they were in touch, the news got out and it was smooth sailing from there. I was sad to be leaving the Mariners, I’d made a lot of great relationships there and had a lot of great mentors there that I still reach out to sometimes. As soon as I got to the (Toronto) complex, it was amazing and the people there were very welcoming. The attention to detail here is so great, and I feel very blessed to have been a part of the Mariners, and I feel super blessed to be a part of the Blue Jays.”

Not only was Macko traded to the only organization based in his new home country, he also got to play last year close to home in High-A with the Vancouver Canadians, where he was teammates with another FSS alum and fellow 2018 IW World Team member, Dasan Brown. But being close to family provided another layer of comfort.

“When I was playing in Everett, that was super nice being so close. My girlfriend is from White Rock (BC), so it’s close to Vancouver, and she could come visit me on the weekends and stuff like that, it was amazing,” Macko said.

“But the next year, I’m in Vancouver, 45 minutes away from where we live. I travelled back home every day, and got to see her and the dogs and sleep in my own bed. That’s something I’d never really been able to experience, just getting to connect my off-season life and my relationships I have outside of baseball with baseball during the season. When those two worlds collided, it was an amazing time, and I was so grateful that I was able to do that.”

Now in his second full season in the Blue Jays system and first in Double-A, Macko has shown flashes of the upside that has him at or near the Top Ten in many Toronto farm system rankings; he’s got 32 strikeouts in his first 28 innings this season, and has enjoyed being able to test himself against a better level of competition.

“The experience has been great. I love this team, they have lots of great guys and the camaraderie here is a lot of fun. I feel like for me, if that tone is set early, the rest of everything will figure themselves out. We’re going to be really good this year, I think. In terms of the competition we’re playing, you’re seeing a lot more names that sound familiar to you out here than in High-A, so it’s a lot of fun. I always want to compete against the best and I want to see how I stack up and how they stack up. It’s executing it and being consistent, that’s the goal.”

Mike Ashmore
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