Feature: Baseball's Ryan McCally, Recognizable Relief
Feb. 12, 2002
Who have been the top Stanford pitchers over the last three years? Several names immediately come to the mind of most Stanford Baseball fans: Jeff Bruksch, Mike Gosling, Jeremy Guthrie, Justin Wayne, Jason Young ... all recently drafted in the top five rounds of the Major League Baseball draft. A name that rarely comes up that probably should is Ryan McCally. He has made more career appearances (46) than any other pitcher on the current staff and last year's was second on the club with 26 appearances. He has a career 2.70 ERA, lower than any of the aforementioned pitchers. He has recorded six career saves and won three of his four career decisions. Still, he is not a well-known pitcher on the Cardinal staff. Maybe it's because he has never started a game for the Cardinal, or maybe he has a bum 'PR guy', which would be yours truly. Either way, McCally figures to be a much more prominent and recognizable member of this year's staff, whether he finally earns a spot in the starting rotation or remains in the relief role that he has performed brilliantly in his first two season and his first two outings this year. McCally has earned saves in each of his first two outings in 2002, tossing a total of 6.0 scoreless innings with six strikeouts while only giving up three hits and one walk.
'Everybody wants to start ... that's where all the glory is,' jokes McCally.
'But obviously only three people get to be in the starting rotation,' continues McCally more seriously. 'You just have to go with it, do your best and pitch well. If you pitch well, that's really all that matters.'
Who can blame McCally for wanting to start? His baseball hero is longtime major league pitcher Orel Hershiser, who started 269 big league games without a relief appearance during the 1990's.
'I've tried my best to look exactly like the guy,' says McCally, who still claims to have a poster of Hershiser hanging in his room at Stanford. 'A few things have changed as I've gotten older, but that's how I started.'
McCally has only seen Hershiser throw once in a person, going to a Phoenix Firebirds Triple-A game in the early 1990's to watch Hershiser pitch for the visiting Albuquerque Dukes while on an injury rehabilitation stint.
So far, McCally has had to emulate Hershiser in a relief role during his collegiate career. But, if he keeps up the good work a role in the starting rotation might not be far off.
He does have the experience. McCally has been one of the top starting pitchers the last two summers with the Anchorage Bucs of the Alaska Baseball League. In the summer of 2001, he posted a 5-1 record with a 2.65 ERA in eight appearances (all starts) to earn a spot on the ABL All-Star team. He showed his endurance with two complete games, including an 11-inning outing.
'I like to know that I'm going to pitch every fifth day,' said McCally before deadpanning ... 'other days you can just sit back and watch the games.'
McCally is outwardly quiet but has a dry sense of humor that is evident in the Cardinal media guide as he states that his earliest baseball memory is chasing after groundballs that he let get by him because 'they are easier to pick up after they've stopped moving.'
A good sense of humor is a necessary component for pitchers.
'We all hang out together down in the bullpen because there's not too much to do during practice,' claims McCally. 'We do shag balls for batting practice and have other various jobs. I've fixed a number of batting cages and the batting eye. Apparently, I do a good job because Coach Marquess keeps having me do it.'
Although McCally hopes his role will expand into the starting rotation, maybe so he will have more days off for odd jobs around Sunken Diamond, for now he is just looking for as much work on the mound as he can get.
'I just want innings,' says McCally. 'Whatever coach gives me, I'll take it.'
by Kyle McRae