On Monday, June 6th, I had the chance to do a zoom interview with the MLB Draft Prospect you might not be too familiar with. Ryan McCarty, from Penn State Abington, and the best player to ever play Division III baseball, is expecting to be taken in July’s MLB First-Year Player Draft. Ryan was also named a semi-finalist for College Baseball’s Golden Spikes award. The award is “bestowed annually to the best amateur baseball player in the United States.” The award is usually given to the top players from Division-I schools, but Ryan’s historical season has landed him on the list. Ryan is hoping to become the first player since Bryce Harper to win the award despite not going to a Division-I school. For reference, Ryan led the NCAA in batting average (.552), hits (95), doubles (26), RBIs (85), and runs (85). Ryan also slugged 27 home runs and posted an unheard-of 1.825 OPS. So, get to know the best baseball player to ever step onto a Division-III field, and soon-to-be MLB prospect, Ryan McCarty.
Are you a guy who looks at stats throughout the season or do you like to wait until after the season?
“I think it’s best to definitely hold off until after the season. I used to be a guy earlier in my career that would always check on stats, but it always put extra pressure on you because if you’re hitting .370 and you want .390, you’re thinking ‘if I go 3-4 or 4-5 this next game I’ll be there.’ You’re just putting extra pressure on yourself so I definitely like to hold off until the end of the season.”
At what point in the season did you realize that you were doing something not only incredible but historic?
“I mean, early in our year, I knew this team was going to be really special. After our first two games, where we scored like 60 runs. We were averaging 30 runs in two games. I knew this team was going to be real good, but that was a little extra. Of course, we went on to have a program year, our first 30-win team. Personally, I saw my first two games as really special. Those were the first times I ever had a multi-homerun game. So to do that twice, I was like ‘Whoa that was pretty awesome, I would love to do that again.’ I’d say toward the middle of my year, I started to realize that this was something a little extra special this year.
There are so many people rooting for you to be selected in the MLB draft in July, have you heard anything from teams, and do you expect to be picked?
“Right now it’s been a really good time. I’ve been going to a lot of different workouts for a lot of different teams. That’s pretty much the process right now. I’ve been talking with a lot of teams as well. I’m just very blessed to have this opportunity. I think it’s been a great time to talk with some of them and I’m very appreciative of their time as well. July is going to be a fun month. Of course, I have no idea about anything until it actually happens. That’s what my advisor said as well. We talked about it because he’s worked in a draft room and he was telling me that it is like crazy in there. It can be as stressful for teams as well as the players. But you have to enjoy it all.”
Do you feel any extra pressure to be taken considering the amount of buzz you’ve received on social media?
“I think a younger version of myself would’ve been much more stressed than who I am today. I picked up a lot of hobbies as well outside of baseball. It used to just be the weight room that was my hobby, but I try to pick up more along the way. I golf more now, I started playing the guitar this year. It gives you extra freedom in your mind so that stuff doesn’t get to you. And the reason I say the younger version of me is because I didn’t focus so much on my mental game as I do now, which has allowed me to play with a lot more freedom and be stress-free. I’ve been preaching being in the moment I think it helps me handle everything and not be stressed. Doing yoga practices and mental practices have really helped me play stress-free and enjoy this moment more than anything.”
What’s your reaction when you hear people say “he’s D3?”
“Yeah, have definitely seen that a lot on social media. I get it because we don’t see 97[mph] daily. That’s just the way it is at D3 schools. For a lot of guys it could be a lot harder because one day you could be facing 90-93, then the next day you could be facing 80-83. So you have to be very adjustable. D3 baseball is still great baseball. I think once you get into the higher end of D3 you’ll see guys throwing 95 and stuff like that. They just happen to slip through the cracks. In high school maybe they grow a little later and they just work their butt off to get where they are. So you still face really good competition. And again, I think a lot of kids should look at that D3/JUCO route because you’re going to get playing time. I think that’s the biggest thing in college baseball.”
You lost your 2020 season due to COVID-19, how tough was it to lose that season and how did you use that time to train and get ready that ultimately here on the cusp of being drafted?
“That was a very unique time for sure. A lot of us baseball players, probably since middle school haven’t had a Spring off. That’s your season, that’s your prime time to play. So that time was very strange. During that time, I did try to add some more muscle and put on a little more weight because I’ve always struggled with that portion of the game. I was always a smaller kid so that time helped me a lot, I think it was a positive time. Although it did stink losing that whole year, thankfully the NCAA gave us some eligibility so that helped us a lot. During that COVID season, a lot of the guys still met up and did live at-bats and scrimmaged each other as well. We did as much as we could with that time to be as productive as possible and get ready for the next season. We knew as bad as it was we could do nothing about this season but the next best thing was to prepare for the next one.”
I texted your teammate and my good friend, Joe Dimaria, and asked him if he had some things we should ask and he said specifically your mental approach. You already touched on it a little bit, but could you just dive right into it and talk about how you prepare for seasons and games?
“Definitely. I think the biggest way I changed my game this year was the mental aspect. I would say probably five to six days a week I was training mentally on how to control my thoughts. This is because our minds love to run to the past or the future. If a guy is struggling like 0-15, he’s thinking ‘this college won’t like me, this scout won’t like me.’ It’ll really eat at your brain and ruin the moment you’re in right now. That was something I knew I had to focus on because I really wanted to be a next-level player. So I couldn’t let myself eat at myself. Also with the future, you set these sort of expectations on yourself. I know younger me in my career, I would say that maybe even this year I was stressing to keep my performance up, rather than just believing in myself and knowing that’s how it was going to be every single day. You have to trust the process with this mentality training. My Sophomore Spring into Summer was a very rough time for me. I knew I was a much better player than what I showed. That was when I decided to dive even deeper into this mindset of release and refocus and be in the moment. If I were to continue to stress about a bad performance then it would be affecting right now. The great thing about baseball is there’s always tomorrow. You play so often so you can’t really let the future or the past hold onto you. My main mentors for this were Steve Springer and Ken Revizza, who are two sports psychologists. I really recommend that whoever reads this or sees this to look up their names. They have YouTube videos everywhere, anything you can take from them is helpful to your game. You have to train your mentality just as much as the physical aspect of the game.”
Joe also said you’re a huge chipotle guy, is that true and if so, what’s the go-to chipotle order?
“Yes, Chipotle is a must. All the skinny guys out there, if you’re looking to put on some weight, you need to get in Chipotle. My go-to is a double wrap burrito. The extra burrito is an extra 320 calories, so that’s a bonus. Double wrap with chicken, beans, I love spice so I usually go medium and hot sauce, some corn, cheese, and lettuce. I do not go for the guac, they upped the price of it even more. I love what Zack Greinke said a couple years ago. He said he’s not going to let them beat him because they charge more for the guac. So I kind of rolled with that. But now I do the rewards so hopefully, I get some free guac sometime because that’s just more healthy calories too.”
How did you find out you were a candidate to win the Golden Spikes, where were you, and what was your reaction?
“I was actually in North Carolina. I was doing a couple games in the Coastal Plains before I head to Cape Cod. I was on my way to a cookout when my coach called me and said the Golden Spikes are going to be announced and he let me know I was on there. I was mind-blown. I know we had talked about there was a possibility but being a D3 guy I didn’t think I would have been on that list. But it’s cool that I got even mentioned or something like that. Like people thought ‘hey this kid could be on Golden Spikes.’ So that was awesome. Hearing my name actually on there was unbelievable. That was more than a dream come true. It’s really not even a thought when you go to a lower division school. I immediately called my parents. I called my mom and she put it on speaker. Called my girlfriend right away. I told them we had to start voting like right now, this is so cool. It was an incredible moment.
Has anyone reached out to congratulate you that you didn’t really expect to hear from or were surprised to hear from?
“I’ve had a lot of friends reach out to me honestly. All my friends have had such a big part in my life. Whether or not I’ve talked to them recently, I appreciate all their support. There’s been so many people reaching out, family and friends. It’s been overwhelming in all the right ways. I still am trying to get back to everybody because there’s been a lot of people in my life and I’m just very thankful pf everybody who have reached out. There have even been scouts from outside the Northeast region who wouldn’t be scouting me that have congratulated me on the year I’ve had. A lot of younger players too who have seen a social media post would message me and say how much it has inspired them and how they’re committed to D3. So to see me doing something like this and be on Golden Spikes is going to help them a lot too because I’m sure they want to live the dream and be a big leaguer too. They just haven’t grown into their spot in the baseball world yet. It’s been amazing.”
Have you gotten to know any of the other candidates?
“I haven’t met any of them in person at all. But being a fan of college baseball in general, but seeing my name with theirs and the big D1 schools is a blessing. It just shows how great God is because to be on that list with those great kids and big schools is incredible.”
For everyone who might not be familiar with the Golden Spikes award, could you walk us through the process of how the winner is chosen?
“Sure thing, there’s actually a lot of voting involved. You can vote up to 25 times a day. So you have the semi-finalist list which is the original 30. You vote for the first two weeks. Today was actually the last day for voting so they’ll announce the finalist pretty soon. I believe June 8th is the finalists list, which is like the final five or six guys on that one. Then they do another two weeks of voting, then roughly three days after that ends, they announce the actual winner of the Golden Spikes.”
Photo by Nate Teagle