Hansen's Sunday Notebook: McCoy soaking it all in as MLB pitcher

June 29, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen offers his opinion on recent sports news of interest to Southern Arizonans.

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  • After eight years in minor-league baseball, Sahuaro High grad Pat McCoy arrived in the big leagues last Sunday.

    The lefty who pitched Sahuaro to the 2007 state championship game, looked into the stands and saw his mom, his dad, his wife and his two young children. In all, 13 members of McCoy’s family were at Cleveland’s Progressive Field to watch his MLB debut.

    A day earlier, McCoy had been a Toledo Mud Hen, eating sushi in a Charlotte N.C., restaurant with teammates when he got a call. He left immediately for Cleveland; he was a big-leaguer.

    Once in uniform, McCoy looked out of the Detroit Tigers dugout and saw CDO grad Ian Kinsler at second base and Tucsonan Terry Francona managing in the Cleveland dugout.

    “Pat told me when he was called into the game in the eighth inning, he was so nervous he couldn’t remember going from the bullpen to the mound,” Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler said.

    And that was after 2011 Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander took McCoy aside and told him: “Don’t look into the stands; you’ve never seen five decks of people. Just pitch to the glove, take care of business, and when you walk off the field, soak it all in.”

    After retiring the Indians without a run on 10 pitches, McCoy soaked it all in. The Tigers inserted him in Friday’s game against Houston, needing an out in a seventh-inning tie game, and he got that out on three pitches.

    Now, at 25, the trick for McCoy is to stay in the big leagues. He replaced former Arizona commit Ian Krol, who went on the disabled list last weekend.

    McCoy is the 43rd player from a Tucson high school to reach the big leagues, and according to Chandler, one of the most deserving.

    “When I talked to him last week, he told me, ‘Coach, I’m going to be the same guy when I get back in October,’  ” said Chandler. “He said ‘I’ll be out to Sahuaro to help your guys in the off-season. Thanks for all you’ve done for me.’ ”

    McCoy is best remembered for his 2-1 victory over favored CDO in the 2007 state semifinals, striking out 10, a complete game.

    “His first pitch of that game was clocked at 93 mph,” Chandler recalls. “And his last pitch was 93 mph. A day later, when we were tied with McClintock in the seventh inning of the championship game, Pat came to me in the dugout and said, ‘Put me in; I can close it out.’ ”

    But Chandler chose to protect McCoy’s welfare — he had thrown 96 pitches to beat CDO — and wouldn’t risk injury. Sahuaro lost in 10 innings. A month later, the Washington Nationals drafted McCoy in the 10th round and paid him a $100,000 bonus.

    On the day Chandler was hired at Sahuaro, in 2003, he walked to the baseball field and saw McCoy for the first time, playing long-toss, with his brother, Matt McCoy.

    “It was November, and I had never heard of Pat McCoy,” Chandler says. “But I stopped and watched him make those 130-, 140-foot throws. Pat really had some zip on the ball, just throwing seeds, and he was just a freshman. I remember thinking, ‘Jeez, this could really work out.’ ”

  • When Tucsonan Bernard Lagat won the USA national championship in the 5,000-meter run Friday night in Sacramento, California, it became his seventh U.S. outdoor title in that event, an American record. What makes Lagat’s winning time of 13 minutes 31.41 seconds special is that he will turn 40 in December. The world’s five greatest 5,000-meter runners of the last 50 years were essentially retired long before 35. Kip Keino was done at 33; Lasse Viren at 32; Henry Rono at 29; Said Aouita at 30. Only the great Haile Gebrselassie continued international success to Lagat’s age, running effectively until he was 41.

  • After winning the NCAA 5,000 meters in Oregon two weeks ago, Arizona senior Lawi Lalang signed with a marketing firm, Global Sports Communication BV of the Netherlands. Lalang, an eight-time NCAA champion, laughed last month when he told me he wanted to get a car like Lagat’s. “He has a Mercedes, or maybe it’s a BMW,” Lalang said. “Either one will do.”

  • New cars? Sahuaro High grad Caitlin Leverenz is now driving a new BMW. She won a year’s free lease to the car by being America’s top female scorer in the just-completed Grand Prix swimming series. Leverenz clinched the title, and the car, by winning the 200 IM at the Santa Clara Grand Prix last week. She begins training for the USA National championships Aug. 6-10 in Irvine, California.

  • When Greg Byrne was hired as Arizona’s athletic director in March 2010, the UA had 6,089 Wildcat Club members. After settling in office, he declared that the school would aggressively attempt to double that number, and set a goal of 12,000 by July 1, 2014, which arrives Tuesday. It seemed like quite a reach, but as of last week, Bryne’s staff had pushed Wildcat Club membership to 11,600 and counting. Well done. (Minimum donation is $100.)

  • A day after not being selected in the NBA draft, Palo Verde High School grad Bryce Cotton agreed to sign with the San Antonio Spurs and play for the Spurs’ NBA Summer League team that begins July 11. Good for Cotton, who finished second in scoring in the Big East Conference at Providence last season. If the Spurs pursue you, it reflects on your game and your character. Cotton was home with his family in Tucson during the draft.

  • Sabino grad J.J.Hardy is third in the voting for the America League shortstop position, which means he’s unlikely to make his third All-Star team next month. Strangely, Hardy has just one home run this season for Baltimore. He hit 25 a year ago; the baseball stat guys last week determined that Hardy’s drop in home runs is the greatest by a player coming off a 25-homer year (in the first 250 at-bats of the following season) since stats began being kept in 1974.

  • When UA basketball coach Sean Miller was in Colorado Springs earlier this month for the USA U18 training camp and world championships, he visited the home of ex-UA swimming coach Frank Busch, now the director of USA Swimming’s national teams, based in Colorado Springs. The coaches had dinner together with their families.

  • Summer recruiting season for softball begins in earnest Tuesday, and UA coach Mike Candrea won’t necessarily be looking for a franchise pitcher. His incoming freshman left-hander Taylor McQuillin last week was named the national high school softball Player of the Year by Gatorade. She pitched Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School to the CIF championship with a 25-1 record and an 0.69 ERA.

  • Candrea attended the wedding last week of former UA shortstop Kristie Fox, whose sister, Kellie Fox, will return for her Arizona senior season after playing with the USA national team this summer. Kristie Fox, who helped Arizona win the 2006 and 2007 NCAA championships, married former Oregon State career home run leader Andy Jarvis. Kristie is the head coach at Texas-Arlington, and Andy is her assistant coach. They met while coaching at Texas Tech.

  • Former UA golfer Natalie Gulbis, a regular on the LGPA Tour for 13 years, married former Yale quarterback Josh Rodarmel last week. He is the owner of athletic wristbands maker Power Balance. Since leaving Arizona, Gulbis has won one Tour event, the 2007 Evian Masters, in 282 starts.

  • Gigi Stoll, a five-star recruit from Beaverton, Ore., has committed to play golf for Arizona’s Laura Ianello. Stoll last week won the Oregon Amateur and played in the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 15.

  • Arizona’s 2014 NCAA Swimmer of the Year Kevin Cordes, a five-time NCAA champion, won the 100 and 200 breast stroke events in last week’s Santa Clara Grand Prix. He left the meet with a new nickname: Rip. Get it? Rip Cordes? Pretty good. Cordes showed up for the Grand Prix championships wearing an old Arizona cactus-and-sunset logo T-shirt, a classic look made famous on the court at McKale Center. If the UA elected to bring that logo back, few would object.

  • UA junior golfer Dylan Kornberg of Catalina Foothills had the round of his life last week at U.S. Amateur Public Links qualifying in Phoenix. He shot a blazing 27 on the front-nine for a first-day round of 63, getting one of five spots in the Publinx finals in July in Newton, Kansas. One of the other spots in a field of 80 golfers went to UA senior Alex McMahon of Ironwood Ridge, who beat ASU rival Nicolo Galletti in a three-hole playoff.

  • Tucsonan Stephen Sambu continues to emerge as a distance runner of global impact; he won the Boston Athletic Association 10K last week in Boston, edging 2011 Boston Marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai at the finish. Sambu, a six-time All-American at Arizona, earned $10,000 for the victory. His coach, Arizona’s James Li, attended the race.

  • Athlon Magazine last week ranked the Pac-12 football stadiums for game day character and atmosphere. Arizona was No. 9. But the man on the 10-person panel who probably has the most on-site knowledge of all Pac-12 stadiums, analyst Rick Neuheisel, ranked Arizona Stadium No. 4. He has played, coached and broadcast games in Tucson. When a Pac-12 team is rolling, and the community is involved, I’d rank the league’s top half this way: 1. Washington; 2. Oregon; 3, Oregon State. 4, Arizona. 5, Utah. 6, USC. The trick is the “rolling” part.

  • Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson went undrafted Thursday, and it can’t be much of a shock.

    Carson put on a clinic this season on how NOT to prepare for the NBA. He was a ball-stopper, an over-dribbler, who thought about his own shot first. He was an indifferent defensive player.

    He was the anti-Nick Johnson, who has been his schoolboy and college rival.

    When you are 5 feet 11 inches, as Carson is, you must be a three-tool player: defense, teamwork, shooter. He was essentially Santa Rita High grad Terrell Stoglin, a good kid, who played two years at Maryland and has since bounced from Greece to France to Ukraine to Poland to Italy in two seasons.

    Stoglin averaged 21.6 as a Maryland sophomore; Carson’s was at 18.6 at ASU this year. But the NBA has plenty of scorers. When you are barely 6-feet tall, you’ve got to have more than one pitch.

    Now Carson and Johnson are matched again, as part of the Houston Rockets’ Summer League team, both vying for a roster spot as a backup point guard.

    The Rockets won’t give a whit about their college statistics, reputations and rivalry. For Carson and Johnson, basketball’s real game of survival starts now.

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