With the smell of spring training fresh in the air around the old ballpark, it's been the best of times and the worst of times for Matt McCarthy. The
30-year-old 28-year-old medical intern at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City has seen Odd Man Out, his recently published book based on his minor league pitching career in the Angels organization, excerpted in Sports Illustrated, hailed as the farm-league equivilent to Jim Bouton's polo groundbreaking major-league tell-all Ball Four and compared quite favorably to Bull Durham, which--who knows?--could mean a movie deal will one day be in the offing.
But fans, former teammates and the Orange County Register are lashing out at McCarthy, a hard-throwing lefty who the Angels drafted out of Yale in the
26th 21st round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft, which was held during the height of what has become known as the Steroid Era and the same summer Anaheim won the World Series. Halo diehards are miffed McCarthy did not give a heads up to former teammates he wrote about before the salacious excerpt-and now book-was published. A coach's interactions with players should remain confidential, like confessions to a priest or revelations to a therapist, others have honked.
Former player Heath
Miller Luther had not read the book but, based on what he'd heard, complained "99.9 percent is not true. The .1 percent that is true is the fact that most of the American players don't speak Spanish, and most of the Hispanics don't speak English." That was part of a long comment he left on the online version of the Reg story, where Sam Miller writes, "it's a book that, if we're honest about it, makes . . . the Angels look bad." Many within the organization told Miller they knew nothing of the many incidents McCarthy detailed that showed oversized boys will be boys.
I must make two confessions: I'm an Angel fan, and I loved the book. For a physician and washout pitcher, McCarthy has one hell of an ear for fascinating stories--or, if his Halo critics are correct, quite the wild imagination. He's got a pretty decent writer's touch, too.
His breezy style is evident from the book's first two sentences:
When I was twenty-one, I could throw a baseball 92 miles an hour. This led to a strange courtship between my left arm and a series of pencil-mustached, overweight middle-aged men.
McCarthy goes on to chronicle his brushes with players who have come and gone, and the Angel professionals molding them, allowing readers to discover flashes of personality--and humanity--they may never have otherwise known existed. As much as I root, root, root for the home team, one minor squabble I have is the Angels can come off as robotic and flavorless, like any other plastic Orange County product. Thanks to McCarthy, I now know the franchise is loaded with characters--and character.
My hands down favorite has to be Tom Kotchman, father of popular former Angel Casey Kotchman (now with the Braves) and McCarthy's manager with the Provo Angels in "Mormonville," Utah. Through McCarthy, we witness Kotchman whipping out impressions of comedian Andrew Dice Clay, who it turns out is slightly less profane than Tom Kotchman is when Tom Kotchman is not doing an impression of the Diceman.
Here are Kotchman's three rules for his players: "One: Be on time. If you're late, don't bother showing up. And I mean that. Just stay the fuck home. Two: Play hard. If you're not gonna play hard, stay the fuck home. And three: Don't fart on the bus."
At the Big A, they've got the Rally Monkey. Kotchman had his own motivational mascot: a twenty-four-inch black dildo wrapped around his neck like a scarf.
"I call it the Rally Penis," he said, taking the large object into his hands. Two baseballs were glued to its base, apparently serving as testicles. "It's been with me as long as I've been a manager, and I only bring it out for special occasions."
We all started to giggle as he stroked the thing.
"Three years ago, when we were down three games to one against Ogden and we came back to win . . . who do you think was at my side?"
He looked around the room before pointing to the dildo. "This guy was. The motherfucking Rally Penis. And two years ago, when we got lost on the way to Medicine Hat, what did I do? I smacked that bus driver with the Rally Penis and the next thing you know . . . we're back on track."
He tried to fend off a smile, but it was no use.
"And tell me, McCarthy," he said, looking at me, "when we needed to beat Billings to clinch the first half, what do you think I pulled out in the eighth inning?"
"The Rally Penis," I said firmly.
"This thing is amazing," he continued, pacing back and forth like one of my manic patients in the psych ward. He placed it over his groin and swung it around.
"Now I look like you guys," he said, looking at several of the Dominicans. They all laughed, except Astacio.
"Me and the penis have been through a lot together," he went on, looking at the dildo. "Twenty-four years as coach and it has never let me down. And tonight was no exception. . . . Four walks in the ninth inning. . . . Are you kidding me? God, I love this thing."
He leaned in awkwardly and gave it a kiss on the shaft.
The room erupted in laughter.
Callaspo grabbed Aybar and began humping him. Even Kotchman chuckled.
"Line up and get some," he said and we formed a line. I was mildly frightened.
One by one, Kotchman smacked the dildo back and forth in our faces, saying, "Get some, get some Rally Penis. Yeah."
When he finished christening us, he smiled proudly.
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"You guys are my boys," he said, and walked out of the room with the limp dildo dangling by his side.
The next day I threw a scoreless inning and attributed my success, of course, to the Rally Penis.
I'd love to go on about the jealousy exhibited toward lefty pitcher Joe Saunders (and "Joe Millionaire"'s lack of sensitivity about his sudden wealth with guys surviving on per diems), the mumbling of Ervin Santana, the farmhand plot to kill CNN's Larry King--when they weren't looking at his 30-years-younger blonde wife's fine ass--and the assorted stories of boozing, juicing and barely grown men chasing underage girls. Yes, it can be rough. It's not exactly This Week in Baseball material. But you can't put it down.
One thing is certain: those doctors, nurses and staff at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center better watch themselves when Dr. McCarthy is on rounds.