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.’ ”