LAURINBURG — Each arrived at St. Andrews under different circumstances. They played separate positions on the diamond and graduated a year apart. Now Joe McCarty and Matt McCue find themselves amongst the professional ranks, both playing the sport they love.
McCarty and McCue are St. Andrews’ most recent graduates to play baseball at the professional level. McCarty, who graduated from St. Andrews this year, played this summer for the White Sands Pupfish of the independent Pecos League in Alamogordo, N.M. McCarty is a right-handed pitcher who has served as a starter and a bullpen arm for the Pupfish.
McCarty was a four-year student at St. Andrews who originally committed to the school because he knew he would receive a lot of playing time. The Knights have improved the depth in their program over the last couple of years after coach Drew Roberts took over as the manager, but when McCarty first arrived, everyone on the team had to play immediate innings. McCarty jumped at the chance, despite being an out-of-state athlete from Augusta, Ga.
“I was told I would start as a freshman and would gain a whole bunch of experience that I hadn’t experienced at the time, “McCarty said. “I knew that the only way I would improve is by repetition.”
McCarty said the hardest thing about transitioning to the professional team was getting used to the number of games the Pupfish played compared to Knights’ schedule.
“It was different. You had to be prepared every single day because there was no 3, 4, 5 days off between games,” McCarty said. “You’re playing every single night and just the mental strength you had to have to prepare every single day so you avoid injury or perform the best way you possibly could.”
McCue graduated from the school in 2013, and is wrapping up his second season playing professionally. He predominantly played in center field for St. Andrews, but has generally played right field for his new teams. He played for the Raton Osos, located in Raton, N.M. last year, a team that is also a member of the Pecos league. This summer, he moved to Ohio to play for the Shovel City Crawlers out of Marion, Ohio. The Crawlers are a member of the Independent Baseball League, which was formed this year during the spring.
Unlike McCarty, McCue did not spend all four years at St. Andrews, but transferred to the program after attending New River Community College in Dublin, Va. for two years.
“It’s a stupid story — I got a call from one of my teammates at New River and they said, ‘Hey, we have a workout set up with the St. Andrews, do you want to come with us?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll go. One more road trip before we part ways.’ I went there and worked out and loved it. It didn’t take me long to commit. I think it was two or three days before we drove down there to workout for them that my friend asked me if I wanted to go, and the next week I committed.”
McCue graduated from St. Andrews in 2013, and by the time he left he had become a prolific hitter. He had 52 hits in 38 games, posting .366 batting average to go along with 21 RBIs. He said the transition to professional baseball was not too hard for him, but it did take awhile to get used to the new lifestyle.
“I actually didn’t have a ride — I used to walk a mile from where I was staying to the field to hit … it was kind of getting into a routine,” McCue said. “You wake up, hit, workout, come home and grab some lunch for an hour and then you have to be at the field for batting practice. I loved it because I love being around baseball but at the same time it was a little stressful because you can get cut at any time if you’re not performing so that just motivated me to be on top of my game even more.”
McCarty was one of the best pitchers on the team by the time he graduated. He posted a 3.24 ERA and won six games, including throwing three shutouts, his senior season. He said playing baseball for St. Andrews prepared him for life in the professional ranks.
“One thing I learned was to stay within myself and don’t try to do stuff that I’m not capable of doing yet as far as don’t try to overpower a hitter when I’m not an overpowering pitcher,” McCarty said. “Since I was four-year starter I had a tremendous amount of experience.”
McCarty said he cherishes his time at St. Andrews and still keeps in contact with my of his former teammates. The Knights did not graduate a lot of seniors last year, so many of the returning players this year still maintain a close bond with McCarty.
“You got really close with everybody because it was such a small school,” McCarty said. “You create great friendships that last forever and I know a lot of the guys going back this year. It’s tough not going back there with them knowing that you have to move but you can still keep those friendships.”
The professional world is also much more fast-paced and often full of traveling.
“You feel comfortable when you’re in Scotland County,” McCue said. “You know where you are, Cookout is walking distance if you don’t have a car. The baseball field was right next to my dorm room … (playing professionally) you learn how to live out of a suitcase. You don’t want to fall in love with a place too much because you could be leaving at a moment’s notice.”
Both McCue and McCarty enjoyed living in Scotland County, which both say positively influenced their performances during college and prepared them for their professional endeavors.
“I felt at home at St. Andrews. I never questioned my decision to go there,” McCue said. “… Feeling and being comfortable where you’re at is a key component towards being able to maximize your potential in baseball, because they gave me the opportunity to focus on my game and my craft.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.