FAMU’s Swiss Army Knife: Aubrey McCartyFeatures
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Frankie McCarty, a professional rodeo cowboy for 21 years, has broken more colts than he can remember.
His son, Aubrey McCarty, prefers breaking opposing hitters’ bats.
Powerfully built at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, McCarty can get batters out as a righthander … or as a lefthander.
But wait … there’s more.
This extremely rare switch-pitcher is also a switch-hitter – a Swiss Army knife of a player who figures to bat cleanup, play left field and start Sunday games on the mound for the Florida A&M Rattlers this season.
McCarty, a junior who was raised on a 120-acre cattle ranch in Doerun, Ga., is much more than just some novelty act.
FAMU pitching coach Bryan Henry, the only ACC Pitcher of the Year in Florida State history, said McCarty “absolutely” will get a chance to play pro ball.
“He has the frame, the makeup and the tools,” Henry said.
The San Francisco Giants agreed, drafting McCarty in the 35th round in 2013. McCarty turned down their signing offer, however, opting to attend Vanderbilt.
McCarty was a redshirt in 2014 when Vanderbilt won its only national title, and he got just six at-bats as a batter (one hit) and six innings as a pitcher (3.00 ERA) during his first year on a collegiate field.
Vandy finished second in the nation that year, but McCarty’s inactivity prompted him to transfer to a junior college for his sophomore season, hitting .392/.479/.667 with 10 homers, 20 doubles and 62 RBIs at Gordon State in Barnesville, Ga. He led the team in all six of those categories.
That led McCarty – who eats and writes with his left hand and is more natural from that side – to FAMU.
But before we continue with the rest of the story, let’s go back and figure out how this rarest of baseball skills – switch hitting and switch pitching – developed.
Frankie McCarty earned his pro card as a rodeo cowboy in 1989, and he knows first-hand that it’s a painful profession.
Along the way, he’s suffered a broken left arm and tore up his right knee, among hundreds of other bumps and bruises.
“I found out right quick that bull-riding wasn’t for me,” he said.
Roping calves was his specialty, and the way the rodeo barriers are set up, it is extremely beneficial to be righthanded.
Frankie wanted Aubrey – his only son – to follow in his cowboy boots. But because Aubrey was a natural lefthander – a trait he inherited from his mother Caroline and her side of the family – Frankie went to work.
Starting when Aubrey was age 5, Frankie taught him to rope righthanded.
And when Aubrey preferred baseball over rodeo, the same rule applied: Why not throw and hit from both sides?
These days, there are six-finger gloves with thumbs on each side available for those rare ambidextrous throwers — a club whose most famous member is the Blue Jays’ Pat Venditte, a former Creighton star. But when Aubrey was coming up, coaches would throw him a different glove every time he turned around to throw with his opposite hand.
“A lot of people are so scared to try stuff,” said the 54-year-old Frankie, who retired from breaking colts four years ago. “Nobody is ever good at something the first time. But if you get bucked off, then get back on and try again.”
The Scoop From Shouppe
FAMU coach Jamey Shouppe was the pitching coach/recruiting coordinator at Florida State for 21 years. But after he was dismissed there – and before he took over at FAMU – he was the head coach at a Georgia high school called Coffee.
It was there that Shouppe faced McCarty, whose Colquitt County team defeated Coffee in a best-of-three series that determined which school made the playoffs.
Shouppe’s memory is a bit hazy on all the details, but he knows for sure that Colquitt won the series with McCarty earning a pitching victory and also hitting two homers in one game.
“I’ve known Aubrey for a long time,” Shouppe said. “He was on our radar when I was at Florida State. … His dad and I would talk at various times.”
When it came time to transfer from Gordon State, McCarty chose FAMU, whose campus is just 90 minutes from his home.
“It was an easy fit,” Shouppe said. “There was already a trust factor there with me and his father. And we told Aubrey, “We’d love to have you.’ “
This past fall, FAMU tried McCarty as a switch-hitter, and he looked good on both sides of the box.
“Honestly, he looks better as a hitter (than as a pitcher),” Henry said. “He can swing it from either side with no drop-off. He’s a threat.”
As for his pitching, McCarty is coming off a disappointing season at Gordon State, going 3-7, 5.40 in 15 games, 14 as a starter.
“I was more focused on hitting last year, and that’s on me,” McCarty said. “I was not prepared as well as I should have as a pitcher.”
This past fall, FAMU would try him as a righthander one day and as a lefthander another. They would stack a bunch of righthanded hitters in the first scenario and lefties in the other situation.
McCarty will likely be used exclusively as a righthander, where he throws a fastball between 88-93 mph, a slider at 80-83 and a changeup at 78-80.
As a lefthander, his fastball velocity is diminished at 82-85, and he doesn’t have the same feel for his breaking pitches.
“We know his left side is still there, and that could be an option out of the bullpen if we need it,” Henry said. “But his stuff is so good from the right side, it’s hard to justify anything else.
“He’s got good arm-side run with sink. He goes right after you.”
McCarty said he was disappointed when told he will be a righthander for the most part this season.
“The other day, I was working with my left hand, and I found something mechanical that will help me,” he said. “I still think I will be able to help us lefthanded at some point.”
Shouppe is not so sure.
“Righthanded, he has a chance to pitch at the next level, and we don’t want to mess with that,” Shouppe said. “There’s also a fielding issue. In the fall, while pitching lefthanded, he fielded a comebacker, he dropped his glove and threw righthanded to first.
“I think he’s just more comfortable throwing righthanded.”
Henry, who as a player came to Florida State as a third baseman/pitcher, said he believes McCarty can handle hitting and pitching.
“It allows him to have fun,” Henry said. “He’s always doing something. He’s working hard at everything.”
So while hitting/pitching is OK with the Rattlers, switch-pitching and switch-hitting is a bit much.
“Pitching is hard enough to do as it is,” Shouppe said. “Developing him from both sides is an impossible task. There are not enough hours in the schedule.
“But if I’m a pro team, I give him a chance to hit first. If that doesn’t work, then try him as a pitcher. The window of opportunity is so much longer as a pitcher.”