USM Alum Kirk McCarty overcoming Minor League setback

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When ace pitcher McCarty was drafted by the Cleveland Indians back in 2017, his Southern Miss Golden Eagles were coming off a school-record 50 win season.

But for all the success he experienced in Hattiesburg, McCarty has been through an equal share of struggles during the early part of his Minor League Baseball career.

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Now it’s bigger the setback, bigger the comeback for one of the best to ever take the mound at USM.

A fairly new resident of the Gulf Coast, Kirk McCarty is heading into the third full season of his Minor League Baseball career, doing his off-season training at Gulfport High School with a new vision for his future on the diamond. “I think for the first time in my career, it’s like I finally know what kind of pitcher I want to be, where I want my pitches, grips, intensity. I have a good feel for the shape I’m looking for, and so now it’s just coming out here every day getting my work in. Making sure I’m healthy and just getting ready to go into spring training.”

After posting USM’s first 100 strikeout campaign in 15 years during his junior season, the crafty left-hander experienced initial success as a seventh round selection of the tribe.

But 2019 was a different story, only throwing six plus innings two times over the course of his 13 starts with the high A Lynchburg Hillcats. “I wish it was an epiphany but it was through a lot of struggle. I mean my first full season was bad. I spent two or three months being a really bad pitcher, so I had to make some adjustments there. And then I struggled at times this past year, made some adjustments and I finally feel like I’ve struggled through enough times like I know where I want to be and now I’ve just got to go out and execute.”

Execution was never his problem as a Golden Eagle, compiling a record of 22-4 during his college career but McCarty’s overall Minor League mark of 10-20 has been much less forgiving. “Well, I think there were some struggles too at Southern. It was easier to get past them. You’re throwing once a week, once every seven days. Now you’re once every five days and those add up. My problem is I tend to tinker a ton and I’ll start trying different things, this, that and the other and I think I’ve got to be mature this year and say alright, you know where you need to be. You know where you’ve been before, and it’s just executing at that point.”

Where McCarty has been is defined by championship moments, two 6A baseball state crowns at Oak Grove High School and another in football. More recently two Conference USA titles at Southern Miss and a big ‘I owe you’ to his Black and Gold family. “Without Southern Miss I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am. I’d probably be in an office somewhere. I really don’t want to be doing that, the opportunities they presented me and Southern Miss is a big part of me and my family and where I am today.”

Due to the nature of Minor League Baseball where McCarty is tomorrow will always be at the mercy of a phone call. In the event that there’s good news on the other end of that call, the big game strikeout enthusiast says he’s gonna keep playing until they tell him he can’t. “You think about it every day. And I’ve been chasing it a long time and still putting the work in, doing whatever I can to get there. The one thing I don’t want to do is look back and say I wish I had done more to achieve that goal, so I want it bad and we’re fighting to get there every day.”

McCarty says he’ll report to spring training in Arizona in mid-February with the rest of the pitchers and catchers.

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A native of Pass Christian and a St. Stanislaus alum, Jeff Haeger comes to News 25 from right in our backyard. He most recently spent more than three years working as the sports reporter for WHLT-TV in Hattiesburg, where he provided extensive coverage of his alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi. At Southern Miss, Jeff was a member of the Honors College and graduated with a B.A. degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Spanish. He also wrote for USM's award-winning school newspaper, The Student Printz, where he won first place for Best Sports Story in 2013. Jeff loves to travel, and is excited to get back on the water to reunite with his family. In his spare time you can find Jeff spending time with his friends, and maybe even winning a fantasy football league. For sports stories contact Jeff at jhaeger@wxxv25.com.

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