|AtHomePlate.com Q&A with Matt McCarthy|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 12, 2009
AtHomePlate.com: Obviously before your book there was "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton. He was frowned upon by many of his former teammates for discussing what happened in the clubhouse. Have you received any backlash because of this book?
Matt McCarthy:¬†I've been asked a number of times about Ball Four but truth be told I haven't read it. I've received dozens of emails from former teammates and members of the Angels organization. Most have given me a hard time for not featuring them more prominently in the book. Obviously others won't feel that way. What I tried to do was give an honest account of what it's like to be a mediocre player in professional baseball, warts and all. But I loved my time in the Angels organization.
Matt McCarthy:¬†I wanted to give the reader the feel of what it was¬†really like to play minor league ball.¬†I was hard on myself and I was honest about my feelings towards my teammates. They didn't really care about my professional future and I didn't really care about theirs. If a pitcher struck out the side, it meant I was one step further away from the big leagues. We used to laugh about the half-hearted high-fives that guys competing for the same position would give each other.
I never saw any of my teammates actually use steroids, although speculation ran rampant. If a guy went out and hit two homeruns, there was only one explanation. And if a pitcher started throwing a few miles per hour we all knew why. In my book, I wasn't interested in who was using steroids, I wanted to focus on the kinds of conversations guys were having about steroid use.
AtHomePlate.com: Have you finally come to grips with not being a baseball player? How are you spending your life now? What was the most challenging part of leaving the game?
Matt McCarthy:¬†It was hard for me to leave baseball -- it¬†had been my life since I was five years old -- but eventually I got myself back together. Thankfully one of my best friends, Craig Breslow, is in the big leagues with the Oakland A's so I get to live vicariously through him.
These days you can find me working in the intensive care unit at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. It's a stressful job, but a lot of fun -- not unlike the experience of being a¬†lousy pitcher.
AthomePlate.com: One of the big things about the book was your character change. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you went from being an outsider to "one of the boys" in the clubhouse. Has that lasted? Has anything changed about you while in baseball?
Matt McCarthy:¬†I don't know if I ever felt like one of the boys, but¬†I think we all felt like outsiders in some respect. Imagine being a teenager from the Dominican Republican suddenly dropped into Provo, Utah. Or coming from Alabama and finding yourself living with a Mormon host family. It was a bizarre, fascinating situation. Some handled it better than others, but we were all glad to be putting on a uniform every day.
AtHomePlate.com: You wrote a lot about coaches maybe not failing you, but perhaps not doing as much as they could for your team (i.e. caring more about money in fines than helping players grow or not providing translators for Spanish-speaking players). Was this limited to the Angels or more organizations? You haven't been in baseball a while, but do you get a sense that this is changing around baseball?
Matt McCarthy:¬†Minor league coaches have a difficult job. They're instructing players who have been highly successful doing things their own way. I don't think my coaches failed me. If anything, I failed them. They were responsible for finding the next bona fide big leaguers and I certainly wasn't one of them.
The¬†Angels have one of the best farm systems in baseball and it's because they¬†have invested heavily and drafted wisely.¬†¬†As for fines and translators, I think you'll find those issues with any organization.
AtHomePlate.com: For someone who was just drafted and is heading off the play, what advice do you have?
Matt McCarthy:¬†Enjoy it! You never know how long the ride is going to last. I would say to keep a journal, but players today have their own blogs.
AtHomePlate.com: What advice do you have for someone who has just been released?
Matt McCarthy: Getting released was a difficult experience for me and I wouldn't say I handled it particularly well. But if you think you've got some baseball left in you...don't give up the dream. My buddy Breslow was released by the Brewers and went to play independent ball in New Jersey. A year later he was in the big leagues.
AtHomePlate.com: Looking back on your career, do you regret not taking Kernan up on the offer with the Giants?
Matt McCarthy: I've thought about that question a lot over the years. Particularly after seeing Breslow's perseverance in independent ball payoff after he was cut. But there was a big difference between the two of us when we got our respective pink slips- he was throwing 90 mph consistently with a good change up while I was struggling in the mid-80's with below average control. I honestly just didn't think I was good enough to play major league baseball. Initially it was a tough thing to accept, but I've come to terms with it. And when I see Breslow facing A-Rod or Mauer or Ortiz, I don't envy him.
AtHomePlate.com: Looking at the Angels' official transactions, there has been evidence that some things in your book are false. You said in this New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/03/sports/baseball/03book.html) that those events were to the best of your knowledge but that you also took copious notes. How much of the book was "to the best of your knowledge," which leaves some room for not being entirely accurate, and how much are you absolutely sure, 100% without a doubt certain happened in your book?
One of the things I make clear in the book is that playing minor league baseball is very bizarre experience. After a few weeks the days begin to blend together and you're frequently only vaguely aware of the town you happen to be passing through. I fully admit that I made some chronological errors, which I should have verified by looking at box scores and transaction records, but to categorize any of the anecdotes I relate in the book as 'false' is simply ridiculous. Some things might have actually happened a few weeks before or after they chronilogically appear in the narrative, and I regret that, but I will not accept any contention that the events didn't happen substantially as I say they did, and no one has yet been able to muster a plausible denial.
AtHomePlate.com: When you were writing your book, did you put things in that you weren't certain about but thought they were true? In other words, was there any doubt as to the veracity of what you were writing when you wrote the book?
Matt McCarthy: No.
AtHomePlate.com: Have there been any legal ramifications because of this?
Matt McCarthy: No.
AtHomePlate.com: What do you say to the readers who thought your book was entirely accurate before finding out it wasn't?
Matt McCarthy: Well, I disagree with the premise that the book is inaccurate. Certainly there are some box scores and transactions that don't match up with the dates that I appear to be referencing, but I receive letters and emails from former minor leaguers and teammates all the time thanking me for putting their experience into words. I'm not sure there's a better recommendation to my readers than that.