Monday, June 30, 2014

Good Catch

The last thing TigerBlog expected when he heard from Tom McCarthy Friday was that the former Princeton football and men's basketball play-by-play man and current Philadelphia Phillies television voice would end up in SportsCenter's top 10 plays of the day.

When McCarthy checked in Friday, it was to ask for information about David Hale, the Princeton alum who was to pitch Saturday night for the Atlanta Braves against the Phils. And about Princeton's current Major Leaguers, and baseball execs.

This was during the afternoon.

Then, at about 10, TigerBlog got a text from his colleague Yariv Amir, asking if he had seen Tom's catch.

TigerBlog replied that he had not, so Yariv forwarded to him a video clip.

McCarthy was broadcasting from a location in deep centerfield at Citizens Bank Park, something that is done a few times a year, apparently. Freddy Freeman of the Braves launched a towering shot that made its way to where McCarthy was, and as he was calling the home run, he reached out with his glove and caught the ball without ever losing his train of thought.

It was a fairly routine home run call and a relatively easy catch, especially for a former first baseman like Tom McCarthy. To do both at once though? Now that was impressive.

It was so impressive that it reached SportsCenter's top 10 plays. Okay, it was only No. 10. Still, it was something that probably doesn't really happen too often, if ever.

Think of everything that had to happen. They had to be broadcasting from the outfield. A home run had to be hit to their exact location. And he had to catch it.

And why in the world would McCarthy be wearing a baseball glove at that exact moment? TB texted him after the game but forgot to ask him why he had the glove on and if he had worn it the entire game prior to that.

After he caught the ball, McCarthy threw it back onto the field. TB wondered if the security people would take issue with that, which apparently they didn't, though TB doesn't recommend doing so if you happen to be a fan at the game.

McCarthy's career has gone from writing at the Trenton Times to broadcasting Princeton and Rutgers to Minor League baseball to the Mets on the radio and now Phillies on television, along with work on radio and TV for NFL football and NCAA basketball. That's pretty big-time stuff.

Among TigerBlog's best memories of his time at Princeton is the time he spent traveling with McCarthy when he was doing games here. TigerBlog couldn't even begin to estimate the number of hours he and McCarthy spend together driving back and forth throughout the Northeast and to every Ivy League school, as well as flying all over the country for basketball games.

In fact, TB and McCarthy watched Princeton play in five different time zones - the four in the continental U.S. and the one in Hawaii, where TB and McCarthy went on Christmas Day 1998 for the Rainbow Classic, which Princeton would win.

To this day TigerBlog figures he has not spent more time traveling with any other single person than Tom McCarthy. They were great times.

Way back when, McCarthy did an ESPN radio show every afternoon, and on Fridays during Ivy League basketball season he'd do his show either from Jadwin or the away venue. One of TB's favorite pictures ever is of a young TigerBlog Jr. with McCarthy courtside at Jadwin some Friday afternoon while McCarthy did his show.

These days, McCarthy is constantly on airplanes and in hotels. It's the life of the Major League player and broadcaster. It's glamorous, but it's also grueling.

Even when the Phils are home, it's a long day and longer night. And Saturday was a day-night doubleheader.

Hale pitched Game 2 of the doubleheader, going five innings and getting the win as the Braves completed a sweep with a 5-1 victory. Now in his first full season in the Majors, Hale improved to 3-2, with a 3.02 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

Hale has quickly developed in a very important member of the Braves' staff. He can start - something he's done five times - and come out of the bullpen - something he's done 19 other times. He has pitched 53.2 innings, with 25 strikeouts. He needs to cut down on his 23 walks, which is what has pushed him WHIP up, but he only walked one in five innings against the Phillies Saturday.

What he's mostly doing is establishing himself as a legitimate Major League pitcher, something that is Step 1 for a 26-year-old pitcher he had 11 innings in the big leagues for his career prior to this season.

As for the Braves, they're in what figures to be just a two-time race in the NL East, along with the Washington Nationals. Having someone like Hale is invaluable during the long summer.

So far, he's been a good catch for Atlanta.

Not as good as the one Tom McCarthy made, but still a good one.

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