|Book Excerpt: Odd Man Out|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 12, 2009
Reprinted by arrangement with VIKING, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from ODD MAN OUT by MATT MCCARTHY.Â Copyright Â© 2009 by MATT MCCARTHY.
I wondered if I should be crying. I didn't feel like crying. I was trying to think about things rationally, and rationally I knew that my average fastball and average off-speed pitches just weren't going to get me to the big leagues.
"McCarthy," a voice said from the doorway.
It was Grant-the strength and conditioning coach-waving me into Mr. Reagins's office. He patted me on the back and said, "Sorry, buddy," before closing the door behind me.
Tony Reagins was sitting behind his desk with his head in his hands when I walked in. I stood at the door for a moment before taking a seat across from him. Ten seconds passed before he looked up. It felt like an eternity.
When he raised his head I saw that his eyes were bloodshot and there were tears streaming down his face. He clasped his hands together and said, "I'm sorry," before bursting into tears.
"It's okay," I said softly.
"You have no idea how hard this is," he said as he stared at his desk. "I love all of you guys. Every single one of you."
I nodded. This was not the Grim Reaper I had expected.
"Days like today kill me. They just kill me. To know that I'm ending some kid's dream...a dream that he's spent his whole life working for..."
He trailed off and put his face back in his hands. I cracked my knuckles and crossed my legs.
"I was up until four A.M. last night," he said. "Poring over stats, reading and rereading scouting reports, watching video, talking to scouts..."
I waited for him to continue but he didn't.
"We appreciated all of the work you guys do," I said awkwardly.
The tears continued to dribble down his puffy face. I reached into my pocket for a Kleenex but found only an old ATM receipt. Comforting him somehow made this process easier.
He let out a deep breath and produced a file from his desk. It had my name on it.
"Matt McCarthy," he said gently. "You're a good pitcher, Matt. You've showed us some good things around here. Some real good things. But your velocity is not what it was when we drafted you."
"And your command isn't where we need it to be. You're walking far too many guys."
Tears streamed down his cheeks as he spoke.
"You had a difficult time getting batters out to Provo last year. And that was rookie ball. There were times when..."
He choked up and too a sip of water.
"Mr. Reagins," I sad as he held the cup to his face, "I want to let you know something. I'm going to be fine. I appreciate all that you and the Angels have done for me, but I'm going to be okay. I realize this is a numbers game and that this time, I'm the odd man out."
"That's exactly what it is, Matt. A numbers game. And I hate that."
I stood up and shook his hand and walked with my belongings out to the parking lot. Two hours later I was standing in a security line at the Phoenix airport. The chain of events happened so fast that I really didn't have time to take it all in until I was at the gate about to board my flight back to Orlando. It was then that I decided to call the one man I knew who could relate to what I was going through.
"Mac! How in the world are you?"
"I was just thinking of you. I've got the team down here in Florida and it's absolutely gorgeous. Just beautiful, beautiful weather. We've got some big games coming up this week."
"And I gotta tell you, we have on hell of a ball club this year."
And it was true. Once Breslow, Steitz, and I left New Haven, the Yale nine started winning more games.
"Coach, I gotta tell you something."
"Talk to me. Anything. What is it?"
"I just got my pink slip. The Angels released me today."
I waited for a moment, but he said nothing.
"I don't know what happened," I went on. "I pitched a scoreless inning in Triple-A just the other..."
"Mac, I want you to know something-"
"I figured as a lefty I could hang around for a while."
"Mac, I'm proud of you."
"It's just that, I don't know, you can try to prepare yourself for this day but..."
"Mac, I know there are a lot of thoughts going through your head right now."
"But I want you to remember on thing: I am proud of you."
"And Mac, there's another thing."
"She's still off-limits."