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He may have grown up the son of a Major League Baseball star, but Tim McGraw didn’t know it.
The country music superstar, who grew up poor about three hours north of New Orleans, opened up to TODAY’s Hoda Kotb on Monday, explaining that while having pitcher Tug McGraw as a dad had an impact on him, it wasn’t for reasons that you’d expect.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize I didn’t grow up with Tug,” he said. “I didn’t know Tug was my dad. I found my birth certificate when I was 11 years old. And, like I said, we didn’t have a whole lot, and I was in my mom’s closet, I was digging through something and found my birth certificate. It said McGraw. My name was Smith as a kid because my stepdad’s name was Horace Smith.”
McGraw said the whole matter “was very confusing” and that he met his father later that year but wouldn’t see him again until he was 18. Discovering who his father was, as well as learning that he was a star athlete, made McGraw rethink all the possibilities that lay before him.
“It changed what I thought I could do with my life coming from the circumstances I came from,” the singer, 52, said about Tug, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 59. “I felt like when I found that out, you know, he’s a professional baseball player who’s successful, to me, it made me think that blood is in my veins, so that ability is in there. So I found sort of that grit inside me that he must have had in order to succeed at what he did. And it changed what I thought I could make out of my life.”
McGraw has certainly made a lot out of his life. He’s a popular singer, movie star and author of the new book, “Grit & Grace: Train the Mind, Train the Body, Own Your Life,” which chronicles his weight loss journey.
His lifestyle changes can be attributed to his family, including wife Faith Hill, who had to tell him to stop his partying ways.
“When things happen and you succeed beyond your wildest dreams and you’re playing all these great shows and, you know, the party’s going on,” McGraw said. “And then you’re married and you have kids and all the sudden your wife looks at you and says, ‘You know, you’re getting a little overboard and you need to make some decisions.’ It makes a big impact on you.”
The couple has three daughters and one of them got McGraw to finally confront the fact he needed to shed some weight. McGraw said the family went to see a movie together and a trailer for one of his upcoming films played.
“And my face is the first thing that came on the screen, on a hundred-foot screen," McGraw said. "(I) was pretty swollen at that time. And my daughter looked at me, says, ‘Geez, Dad, you need to do something.' And that’s sort of a gut shot, right?”
McGraw also spoke about the love he has for his mother and the important lessons she taught the whole family.
"She always provided for us and she always made me feel like we could outdream our needs and that was something she always instilled in us," he said. "Our mom is our hero. She's the one that taught us to persevere."