Where are they now? The transformation of Tom McGraw


Former Battle Ground High School baseball star made it to the big leagues and now lives for Jesus with his family in Yacolt

Tom McGraw, as the saying goes, had a cup of coffee in the big leagues, appearing in two games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1997.

Eight years ago, while having a real cup of coffee, he had a transformation.

He was not downtrodden. He was not at rock bottom. He did not pray for guidance.

God reached out anyway. McGraw would never be the same.

Tom McGraw of Yacolt loves working with wood in his garage workshop. A former professional baseball player, McGraw has a number of passions in his life today. Photo by Mike Schultz
Tom McGraw of Yacolt loves working with wood in his garage workshop. A former professional baseball player, McGraw has a number of passions in his life today. Photo by Mike Schultz

“God decided to start changing me. My appetites for life started changing,” said McGraw, a 1986 graduate of Battle Ground High School and a former Washington State Cougar. 

He was in Yuma, Ariz., and his routine was to have a cup of coffee on the deck, watching the sunrise.

“All of a sudden, the clouds became a 3-D movie screen,’’ McGraw said. “They had a depth I had never seen before. I was recognizing everything. The clouds were colliding and swirling. It was like they were alive. I just felt this warmth. I just felt love. I just felt a big velvet blanket of love was on me. I was just amazed at the whole thing. … I just took it in.”

McGraw did not know why it happened. Initially, he did not even think of it as an experience with God. 

But in the days that followed, he became curious. He found a DVD with stories of the bible. He had to learn more about Jesus Christ.

“Who was this guy? I just started researching Him,” McGraw said. “I wast trying to figure out what Jesus did here on Earth. What did it mean that He died for me?”

It meant everything to McGraw.

“Looking back now, I wasn’t really a believer. I was just hoping He was real,” McGraw said. “Now I know He’s real. Just an amazing difference in your life. It’s bizarre to me because I didn’t ask for it. Who am I? The first two years, it was difficult to swallow. I couldn’t understand. Why me, and why now?”

Through all of his efforts to learn more about Jesus, McGraw has learned more about himself. Today, he is a CNA, a Certified Nursing Assistant, working at Brookfield Health and Rehabilitation of Cascadia in Battle Ground. 

Tom McGraw works at Brookfield Health and Rehabilitation in Battle Ground as a certified nursing assistant. He lives “in the woods” in Yacolt. Serving others is a calling from God, he said. Photo by Mike Schultz
Tom McGraw works at Brookfield Health and Rehabilitation in Battle Ground as a certified nursing assistant. He lives “in the woods” in Yacolt. Serving others is a calling from God, he said. Photo by Mike Schultz

“It’s been a calling from God to me,” McGraw said. “Something that has been tugging at me for a long time before I got involved. You’re not sure you can handle what you have to be able to handle in helping people in desperate situations. Once I started doing it, it was so natural.”

McGraw said nothing compares to the “true gratification” of someone who needs something done and he is able to serve. 

“I’m glad that’s where God put me for now,” he said.

McGraw serves at work, and he builds at home. Among the other pursuits he has found is woodworking. For the most part it is just a hobby. He sells some of his work to friends. He has aspirations of doing more with his art. 

Regardless, his life now is so much different than when he was a standout with the Battle Ground Tigers. A hard-throwing left-handed pitcher, he was drafted out of high school in the 38th round by the Cleveland Indians. McGraw opted for college and excelled at Washington State University. In 1990, he was drafted in the sixth round by the Milwaukee Brewers. 

In all, he pitched in the minor leagues for five organizations in nine seasons. At one point, he almost lost his right eye after getting hit by a baseball. He got through it, and kept working on his major league dream.

On May 7, 1997, he pitched a scoreless inning for the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Tom McGraw, a 1986 graduate of Battle Ground and a former Washington State Cougar, played nine seasons of professional baseball. He made it to the big leagues, pitching two games for the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1997. These are two baseball cards from his minor league days.
Tom McGraw, a 1986 graduate of Battle Ground and a former Washington State Cougar, played nine seasons of professional baseball. He made it to the big leagues, pitching two games for the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1997. These are two baseball cards from his minor league days.
Tom McGraw, a 1986 graduate of Battle Ground and a former Washington State Cougar, played nine seasons of professional baseball. He made it to the big leagues, pitching two games for the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1997. These are two baseball cards from his minor league days.
Tom McGraw, a 1986 graduate of Battle Ground and a former Washington State Cougar, played nine seasons of professional baseball. He made it to the big leagues, pitching two games for the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1997. These are two baseball cards from his minor league days.

“A really incredible outing for me. I look back on it, it couldn’t have been any better,” McGraw recalled. “It was awesome.”

Two days later, he got two outs without allowing a run.

In all, he spent six days with the big club, finishing his major league career with a 0.00 ERA.

“I got that to hang my hat on,” he said.

“The proverbial cup of coffee,” McGraw said. “I filled in for a guy (Lance Painter) who went on the DL. He came off the DL, and I went back to Triple-A.” 

While playing for the Cardinals organization, Tom met his now wife Heidi. They came back to Clark County after his playing days were over, and the rest is history.

The McGraws live in Yacolt with their 13-year-old twin daughters Sydney and Savonna and their 11-year-old son Colby.

McGraw said he used to dream of making enough money in baseball to have a cabin in the woods, living with a nice family. He figured he would need a 20-year career in the big leagues. Instead, all it took was six days. 

Years later, it was Heidi who inspired Tom to try his hand at woodworking. She saw a planter box on Pinterest, and asked her husband if he could make it. He gave it a shot.

“I never had the inkling to get into this thing. After it was done, I sat back and thought, ‘Hey, that was pretty fun,’” McGraw said.

Former professional baseball player Tom McGraw said he had a transformation eight years ago. Now, he is a follower of Jesus Christ, leads his family, is a woodworker, and serves as a certified nursing assistant. Photo by Mike Schultz
Former professional baseball player Tom McGraw said he had a transformation eight years ago. Now, he is a follower of Jesus Christ, leads his family, is a woodworker, and serves as a certified nursing assistant. Photo by Mike Schultz

He started tinkering around with other ideas and bought some tools. He made a doghouse. He then started making American flags, with the words of the pledge of allegiance. A few people saw those and wanted to buy them from him.

“It’s something I really have enjoyed doing. It kind of turned into a passion,” McGraw said.

To share his work, he set up a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/woodtransformer/

Today, Tom McGraw is living for Jesus, leading his family, serving others at work, and creating art.

“It’s just been a fascinating ride, to say the least,” he said.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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