The personal goals of a Marist College baseball player vary in all directions depending on which athlete you ask. Some are aiming for a successful season, some are simply trying to play out the rest of their careers, but others have major league aspirations, a goal that can be daunting and flat out intimidating – but not completely unrealistic.
Marist did not have one of their own reach the professional ballgame until 2016. A Division I program without representatives in its respective professional league changes the mindset of its players. Their careers are seemingly capped at the collegiate level. Marist had Terrence Fede and Jason Myers to inspire their football athletes—but the baseball program, despite some draftees, had no major leaguers to inspire their players.
There was growing concern that Marist was only able to develop “Quadruple A” players, meaning that they produced players that were talented enough to get drafted, but not good enough to stick professionally. That was until September 9, 2016, when Kevin McCarthy toed the rubber for the first time as a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals.
McCarthy was drafted in the 16th round and soon thereafter became a trailblazer for Marist Athletics. McCarthy was assigned to rookie ball in 2013 and moved up the ranks to A-Ball the following year. From there, he spent time in High-A and Double-A in 2015. His third year as a professional held two promotions: one to Triple A and the other to the majors.
McCarthy struggled in his 10-game stint during his first taste of the big leagues, which led to his relegation back to Triple A to start the 2017 season. However, it didn’t take long for him to find his way back to the bigs. McCarthy was able to pitch his way into the Royals’ future bullpen plans due to a solid 3.20 ERA over the span of 45 innings. A rough 2018 Spring Training meant he would once again start the year in Triple A, but that didn’t last long. McCarthy was called up on April 13.
The reliever had an up and down beginning to his major league career, but quickly figured out how to pitch successfully at the major league level. McCarthy used his father as a role model to motivate him through his climb towards the major leagues. Kevin’s father now works as a stock broker, but to first get there he worked as a floor runner out of college.
“My dad helps me every day. He worked his butt off to get where he’s at today,” McCarthy said. “I always look to him as a role model, and I’d like to work the same way he does.”
The major leaguer learned a lot from his father, but it was what he’d learn in his first stint in the Major Leagues that would shape him into the successful hurler he is today.
The 2014-2016 Royals changed how the game is played today. Their three-headed monster in the back end of the bullpen molded how managers would deploy their relievers and how general managers would create their rosters. Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, and Greg Holland formed the best trio of relievers this generation has seen. McCarthy was able to pick the brains of the reigning World Series champions and how they became so dominant out of the pen.
“I try to absorb as much information as possible from them and how to read hitters, how to attack hitters and stuff like that; it’s really helped me along the way,” McCarthy explained.
Understanding how to pitch in the big leagues and receiving coaching from three of the game’s best is an opportunity that McCarthy is grateful for. The different approaches, grips and game plans can all be taught to a young pitcher like himself, but he is responsible for his own mentality.
Pitching in front more than 27,000 roaring fans at Kauffman Stadium is a drastic change from Marist’s McCann Field, but McCarthy does not face any added pressure from the fans.
“The pressure is coming from myself. I know what kind of stuff I have. I believe I have the ability to play up here and play here for a long time,” McCarthy said. “I’m just going to try and keep doing what I’m doing and getting after guys and just keep doing my thing.”
As a reliever it is critical to forget about your previous outing. McCarthy tries to concentrate on his task for the night because he knows thinking about yesterday will make his today even worse.
“You’re expected to show up every day out there. You need to have a short-term memory and put that behind you because you’re going to get the ball the next day and you’re expected to perform.”
McCarthy’s prideful mind is a key factor that will keep him up in the big leagues, and it is also the reason he got to the where he is today. Without anyone in the MLB from Marist at the time, McCarthy had to stay stubborn and tell himself that he was good enough to be the first from his college. That pride and stubbornness is something that has always been inside of him. The fire that drives an athlete is crucial to success.
“He was always very competitive, but not to the point where he would be cocky or trash talk,” said Thomas Demara, McCarthy’s step brother. “He just wants to improve himself, whether that’s in baseball, basketball or videos games.”
Through all the competitiveness and recent big league success, McCarthy remains the same.
“He’s a big kid,” Demara said. “Every time he’s home in the off-season, it’s just like we are kids again. It helps him in baseball, he just keeps things clear.”
The Marist baseball program was not always as competitive as it is today. When McCarthy received an offer from Marist, he was happy with it because he got his first and only offer, but his expectations were not set on the MLB. His family was excited for him to continue his career, but most thought the journey would end in Poughkeepsie. He put on his blinders and went to work, and in the process became an inspiration for future generations.
“McCarthy making it to the bigs gives you hope and gives you reason to believe you can do it,” redshirt senior Tyler Dearden said. “Prior to coming here, I didn’t think playing major league baseball was an option for anyone.”
That is McCarthy’s legacy – not records, not titles, but hope for upcoming players. When asked about what he wants his Marist legacy to be, McCarthy let out a humble laugh, uncertain if he even has one. He will act as the ceiling for every pitcher to reach for, a catalyst for drive to be matched or beaten.
“I think about that motivation that you can be like him one day,” said senior closer Mike Coss. “I’m gonna try and model my stuff after him, have his work ethic and hopefully get there one day.”
Every athlete has something that pushed him or her to get better. They work towards something—an end goal. To play baseball at the major league level was not even an option for an end goal.
People come to Marist to play the sport they loved at the next level for the final four years of their career. It wasn’t easy creating a great baseball program in the northeast.
“The northeast is just not the greatest breeding ground because of the weather,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s on the up and up every year and they just get to keep on getting better.
But McCarthy created an end goal. He changed the incoming psyches of baseball recruits.
“He’s a barrier breaker. Just because you’re at Marist doesn’t mean you can’t make the MLB,” Coss said. When asked if the team ever collectively talks about McCarthy and what he means to the program, Coss felt that it is needless to say. “That’s the cool thing about it…it’s kind of already there.”
Now, the Marist baseball program is a perennial MAAC powerhouse and current reigning conference champions. Players come to Marist with lofty goals in mind. No more misconception exists that a Marist baseball player cannot make a major league roster. Some are still just playing out their final years, but others have dreams to go pro, and Kevin McCarthy gave them a reason to believe in them. A Red Fox is currently one of 750 major leaguers and thanks to McCarthy there will likely one day be more.