Former Vina ace adjusts to college pitching
Kim West, Franklin County Times
VINA – Patrick McCarley knows the advantages of attending a small school.
The former Vina ace went from one of the tiniest high schools in Alabama (61 students) to one of the smallest colleges in the U.S.
McCarley pitches and plays second base for Wabash College, a 850-student liberal arts college in Crawfordsville, Ind. that competes in Division III's North Atlantic Coast Conference.
"The coach there was Tom Flynn, and he coached at Sewanee in Tennesse. He started hearing about me a couple years before my senior year. He talked to me more than the other coaches and reminded me a lot of my high school coach (Greg Hamilton)," said McCarley. "Wabash is a good prep school for graduate school, and I think one in eight graduates are either a president or CEO now."
After switching majors his first two years at Wabash, McCarley, a junior righthander, has settled on a political science and rhetoric double-major.
"I decided my major when I got there. I started out majoring in chemistry pre-med for one year. When I started my sophomore year, I was a secondary education and math major," McCarley said. "I took 20 hours a semester for five semesters, and then I had a meeting with our dean at the end of my sophomore year and I had to declare a major."
After graduation, McCarley plans to attend law school at Northwestern, Indiana or Alabama.
"The plan is to practice criminal law in the Indy (Indianapolis) or Chicago area, where I would try cases in the courtroom. Hopefully, after a few years, I'll work my way into politics." McCarley said. "I'm not comfortable with the cold weather, so if I get into politics, I'd want to come back to Alabama. There's a lot of things here that I'd like to help change."
McCarley is the only player from the South on the Wabash roster, which has 31 players who mostly hail from Indiana or Illinois. McCarley faced another change when he arrived as a freshman when he had to change his pitching motion.
"Once I got to college, they had to change a lot about the way I pitched. The first day of practice, the coaches were kind of shocked because of how I threw," McCarley said. "The coach said it was the ugliest windup he'd ever seen and compared it to something he'd seen on an old ESPN Classic game, like the windup Whitey Ford used. With my old windup, I would take my hands over my head and use a high leg kick. My shoulder dipped, and I would drop my arm down where my hand would almost touch the ground."
McCarley said it took a long time to break his high school pitching style.
"In high school we relied on a heavy fastball, but all the college guys can hit heavy fastballs," McCarley said. "I throw a slider now, instead of curveball, and a splitter. I have better control and my pitches dance now. I'm a better college-style pitcher now, but it took two years' worth of practicing mechanics to unlearn 15 years of pitching."
McCarley spent most of his sophomore season as a closer, although he prefers being a starting pitcher.
"I was a closer and that was the hardest thing I've ever done, because one bad pitch can ruin your season," McCarley said. "I'm more comfortable as a starting pitcher because I have more control. The closer has to be able to turn it on in a heartbeat – it takes me a while to get going, but I get stronger as the game goes on."
Despite lettering in four sports at Vina, McCarley said baseball has always been his favorite sport.
"It's the first sport I played, and the first one I noticed I was learning to be good at. There's something about pitching … that day when you're on, you feel really powerful," said McCarley, whose younger brother, Morgan, is a sophomore pitcher at Vina. "I hated basketball, but I played so I could convince some of players to play baseball. When you're in a small school, you have to make sure everyone is playing – it's give and take, and I'm glad I played different sports looking back."
McCarley said sports played a prominent role during his high schools years.
"Pretty much all my memories are from athletics. The best one would be a game we had against Shoals Christian where we had to win it to make state playoffs, and they had never lost an area game. We beat them and put ourselves into the position of being in the state playoffs (in 2004). And Vina made it again the next year after I left," McCarley said. "I think the biggest thing about Vina that has been overlooked is the graduation rate, which I didn't appreciate until I got to college. For a couple of years, I think it was the only school in the county that graduated 100 percent, and a lot of that has to do with the faculty and the principal – they're doing a really great job."