Southern Miss alum Kirk McCarty taking baseball career international
Former Southern Miss pitcher Kirk McCarty spent more than a quarter century of his life working towards his childhood dream of playing professional baseball.
Last season, he finally got to live out that dream and he’s still living it, just in a different country. The Hattiesburg native training in Gulfport before stamping his passport.
“There are people in my circle that might’ve expected it. For me, it felt so far away.” Almost five years after being selected by the Cleveland Guardians in the seventh round of the MLB First Year Player draft out of Southern Miss, Kirk McCarty finally made his Major League debut on April 24th in the Big Apple. “It’s indescribable, especially in the venue I got to do it at that first time in Yankee Stadium. I’ve been on a mound a lot. I’ve thrown I don’t know how many games, came out of the bullpen for how many games, started for how many – that one was just different. Even though the results weren’t great, it was just an amazing day, an amazing experience and one that really reignited a fire under me.”
The former Golden Eagle recorded nine outs that day, three via strikeout, including his first-ever Big League punchout against Joey Gallo, but also giving up his first-ever Big League homer. “D.J. LeMahieu, just, I’m going to send him a Father’s Day card this year because he got me twice. The one time I did get him out, it was hit really hard. So hopefully I get to see him again one day, but hopefully not actually.”
After some early struggles, McCarty on the verge of a breakout, posting a 2.45 ERA across his final ten outings.
However, his first taste of the show wasn’t a walk in the park either. At one point being designated for assignment twice in a ten-day span in July, ultimately opening the door for a baseball scout from South Korea to slide in his DMs. “Ironically enough a scout reached out on Instagram, and I responded, and I said what do I have to lose, and he came and watched me pitch in Buffalo and then came and watched one more time and so we pursued it and got us where we are today.”
In December, McCarty signed a professional contract with the SSG Landers of the KBO, where he’ll look to discover that inner ace, the one that went 22-4 as a part of two Conference USA champions during his three years at USM. “This was an opportunity for me to start again, which is something that I’m passionate about, and it’s definitely not a full departure from playing baseball in the United States. It’s just another step in the process, another part of the journey.”
McCarty one of just three non-Korean players on his new team, creating an obvious language barrier for the Southpaw from South Mississippi in South Korea. “The other night I was looking up some good phrases to know, but the problem was, even when they were in English I couldn’t pronounce them, so I’m going to have to do some videos. (A little Babble?) Yeah, yeah. I started a little Duolingo.”
McCarty says he’ll have a much-needed translator, but maybe that second language will come more naturally to his wife Erica, or perhaps one day, one-year-old daughter Kate, who’s more important to her dad than the game of baseball in any country. “Our daughter will always be able to say, we were talking about it last night, her name some random facts about you. Well, she lived in Korea when she was a year old, so I think if anything it puts into perspective that baseball is not who you are, it’s just what you do.”
McCarty says he’ll spend time in both South Korea and Japan ahead of KBO Opening Day on April 1st and that he’ll find a way to watch some USM games despite the 15-hour time difference.