An iconic scene from the beloved movie The Sandlot occurs on the Fourth of July, as boys play baseball while fireworks light up the Southern California sky.

Growing up in Orange, California, Max Rajcic was one of those kids. When his kindergarten teacher asked the young fan of Los Angeles Angels hurler Jared Weaver what he wanted to grow up to be, Rajcic didn’t hesitate.

“I’m already a baseball player,” Rajcic’s mom says he told the teacher.

It’s no wonder the SoCal native and Cards’ 6th-round pick in 2022 from UCLA saved his best Double-A performance for Independence Day. Rajcic sparkled for eight innings in Springfield’s 7-1 win over Northwest Arkansas; he allowed one run, matched his season-high with nine strikeouts, and picked up his seventh win of the season.

“I think it was the longest I’ve gone since college against Washington State, so it’s been a while, but it was really good to go into the eighth – and it was cool to pitch on the Fourth of July, we had a lot of good fans, packed house, it was really cool,” Rajcic said.

“He attacked the strike zone from the get-go, with all four pitches,” Springfield manager Jose Leger said. “The changeup was a devastating pitch and then combining the off-speed pitches with his fastball at the top of the strike zone – he kept hitters in check and off balance all game.”

Rajcic’s changeup has developed into his favorite weapon.

“I would say at the beginning of this year, I’d say it was my worst pitch. And this year, I’d say it’s probably my best pitch, actually. I’ve taken a lot of strides with that pitch and been working on it a lot,” he said.

Rajcic won Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2023, thanks to a 2.48 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 23 starts with Palm Beach and Peoria. He finished the campaign in the Texas League playoffs with Springfield, but he stumbled out of the gate this spring.

Four starts in April produced an 8.04 ERA and 1.72 WHIP, which prompted a mental reset.

“Kind of restarted my season, middle of the first half, and it’s been way better since and it’s been a good learning experience for sure,” he said.

“Felt like the beginning of the year I wasn’t really being myself, kind of giving the hitters a little too much credit, I would say. You know, it’s the same game I’ve been playing my whole life, just be the pitcher I am. Throw up in the zone, be a north-south guy, and just trust my stuff.”

Rajcic settled in nicely, and with Tink Hence and Tekoah Roby on shelf, Rajcic (7-7, 4.89 ERA, 8.7 K/9) has Springfield’s most dependable starter. He’s thrown 90+ pitches in nine of his last ten starts and five or more innings in 10-of-11 outings going back to May 3.

“It’s pretty cool, we have a really good staff,” Rajcic said. “We just need to all be healthy, and we’ll be a really dominant force together.”

 

 

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505