By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- Max Rajcic (UCLA) is a man of many talents.
The rising-sophomore right-hander is already one of the most gifted in the collegiate ranks at making hitters look silly, something he’s doing a lot with the Orleans Firebirds so far this summer. While he exudes no shortage of passion on the mound, he finds a way to loosen up off of it, in a variety of productive ways.
Some players enjoy their down time by hitting the links, playing video games, bettering their on-field craft, playing cards and even just hanging out. Rajcic does all of that and then some, including one very interesting hobby: Surfing.
While he’s relatively new to the wave-riding phenomenon, Rajcic already considers it one of his favorite pastimes.
“It’s very peaceful, I go really early in the morning and it’s very calm,” Rajcic said. “It keeps me relaxed and it’s where I find my inner peace I’d say.”
Rajcic, like many others, had time to try new things during the quarantine period last summer, something he embraced fully. After having the desire to give surfing a try for a while, he made the most of his down time.
“I was watching a bunch of surfing videos on YouTube for some reason, and all of a sudden I kind of fell in love,” Rajcic said. “I bought one of the cheapest boards at Costco and I would go two to three times per week. I’m addicted now.”
Rajcic normally likes to go with his friends from his home in Los Angeles but also enjoys hitting the water with his girlfriend, a long-time surfer who helped coax him into it in the first place.
Rajcic is aided by the fact that he lives relatively close to both Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, making it easy for him to surf frequently.
“I’m so close to the beach that I was just thinking, ‘Why haven’t I picked up surfing before, it looks so cool,’” Rajcic said. “It’s always good to be with the people you love doing the things you love.”
That is exactly why Rajcic finds so much enjoyment in his many hobbies — the people who surround him help keep his mind at ease when he needs a getaway the most. He plans on sharing that with his UCLA teammate Jake Saum sometime this summer on the Cape.
Saum, an avid surfer and outdoorsman himself, is excited to get to know his fellow Firebird in another element other than baseball.
“I checked out the beach at the Beachcomber and it looked like there were some waves firing there,” Saum said. “He’s been telling me he’s a big surfer so I’m gonna have to put him to the test and see who’s the better one.”
Both men plan on making the most of their off days on the Cape, and while there won’t be many of them, Rajcic in particular is excited to explore and let off some steam. Staying loose and positive has helped him in a big way to start the summer on the mound.
In just over 10 innings he has yet to give up a run, while also transitioning back into a starting role after serving as UCLA’s closer his freshman season.
In his latest outing facing the Brewster Whitecaps, he went 4.1 innings, his longest since he was in high school. It helps knowing that he has the summer to adjust before it becomes real next spring, but one thing is for sure: He’s having fun.
“I feel pretty loose off the field; while on it, I’m fierce and competitive,” Rajcic said. “I want to dominate and win while off the field I’m a happy joke-around kind of kid who’s just having a good time and is easy going. I feel like it’s two different people.”
In a sport as demanding as baseball, it’s hard to balance the scales between work and life and it proves to oftentimes be more of a deterring factor in a player’s constant pursuit for success. However, in terms of pitching, Rajcic has surfing to always help him reset whenever he needs it.
“Those activities all bring joy, smiles and happiness and it takes your mind off of the things that you shouldn’t be thinking about or something negative,” Rajcic said. “That’s why it’s good to have those hobbies and friends like that.”