Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal File Photo
Menlo-Atherton’s Matt McGarry made the preliminary cut for USA Baseball in June. With 34 players on the current roster, the right-hander will compete for a spot on the final 20-man roster next month in Houston.
From his hotel room in Goodyear, Arizona, Matt McGarry contemplates the busy summer baseball schedule he has endured — and hopes it will get even busier.
Since wrapping up his junior season at Menlo-Atherton, McGarry has been living the dream of the high school baseball player. He is currently on the road with the 17-and-under NorCal Baseball Club — a prestigious Bay Area travel squad based in Dublin — with the team taking third place at the Perfect Game World Series Tuesday.
From Goodyear, NorCal travels to the Phil Singer Tournament in San Diego. Yet McGarry is hoping his summer travel season serves as a primer for an even grander stage, as the right-hander is in the mix to make the final roster for the elite USA Baseball 18-and-under national team.
At the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars — held June 17-22 in Cary, North Carolina — McGarry was one of 34 players to make the cut from a field of 108 trying out from around the nation. A final round of cuts will be made at the team trials Aug. 23-29, with an eventual roster of 20 players travelling to the 18U COPABE Pan American Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in September.
“I can’t wait to go try out in Houston and play against the best guys in the country,” McGarry said. “It will be fun.”
USA Baseball features the cream of the crop of the nation’s 18-and-under baseball talent. Scores of Major League Baseball All-Stars, from Barry Bonds to Mike Trout, played for the team as amateurs. Last season, the squad featured ace right-hander Brady Aiken, who went on to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft.
A two-way player at Menlo-Atherton, McGarry knows his ticket to the next level is on the mound. But even though he is verbally committed to pitch at Vanderbilt, where he will attend on a baseball scholarship beginning in the fall of 2015, it doesn’t mean he is happy about giving up the grind of being an everyday player.
“At the next level, I’ll be a pitcher. That’s what everyone has told me,” McGarry said. “It sucks, but if that’s what is going to let you be able to compete at the highest level, I’m not going to complain.”
McGarry certainly impressed at the Tournament of Stars. Playing competitive games against other teams formed from the original field of 108 players, McGarry made two appearances on the mound. He fired three shutout innings in his debut, allowing just one hit. In the second game, he again worked the permitted maximum of three innings, surrendering one run on two hits. The only blemish was his allowing five walks over both appearances.
“I feel like I am throwing a lot better than I was in high school,” McGarry said. “It’s been a lot easier. My motion is a little bit more repeatable right now. So, everything is kind of clicking.”
At M-A, McGarry and senior Erik Amundson worked in tandem to lead the Bears to the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals. Yet, in the win column, the two saw very different results. Their respective ERAs were nearly identical. Amundson paced the team with a 2.33 ERA, while McGarry posted a 2.38 mark. Yet, while Amundson notched an 8-6 record, McGarry earned just two wins on the year with a 2-3 record.
“It was a pretty great pitching staff, we just didn’t score a lot of runs,” Amundson said.
Lack of run support snakebit McGarry, but that was partially his fault. As the Bears’ first baseman, he hit for a mere .200 batting average, whereas the previous season, as a sophomore, he hit .351.
McGarry is getting plenty of run support this summer though. In his final start of the Perfect Game World Series, he fired five shutout innings against Southern California’s Garciaparra Baseball Group, as NorCal went on to win 8-0. NorCal eventually was eliminated in the semifinals Tuesday by the EvoShield Canes. Overall, NorCal posted a 5-3 record in the tournament.
Currently, McGarry is focused on reining in his mechanics to be able to control his heavy low-90s fastball. He also throws a changeup and a slider, the latter of which sometimes gets quite temperamental, according to Menlo-Atherton pitching coach Corey Zirbes.
“He understands what he has in his arm,” Zirbes said. “He understands that he can overpower people, and I think it sometimes gets to him a little bit. He can get a little erratic. … It just depends on what McGarry you get that day.”
Zirbes said McGarry is currently in good hands with NorCal pitching coach Dave Kawamoto, who is helping the young right-hander refine his mechanics. Zirbes’ mission at M-A this year was simply to encourage McGarry to tone down his hyper-competitive mindset.
“He knows if he’s throwing strikes, there’s not many people who are going to hit him,” Zirbes said. “So, when he goes out there and can’t figure it out, he gets frustrated because it makes it look like the other team is better than him; and there’s not many hitters that are going to be able to hit McGarry’s stuff.”
McGarry’s results through four starts with NorCal speak for themselves.
“I haven’t lost yet,” McGarry said. “And the teams we’ve been playing are older teams.”