Former Oak Grove and Southern Miss standout Kirk McCarty has made his way back to baseball fields in the Pine Belt.
However, this time he’s watching the game as a coach for one of the eight teams in the Deep South Summer Collegiate League.
McCarty, a member of the Cleveland Indians minor league system, is in a state of limbo just like every minor and professional baseball player as Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association continue negotiating terms for a shortened season.
Throughout his career in the Pine Belt, McCarty’s pitching has left an impression. In his senior season at Oak Grove, McCarty struck out 81 batters, held a 1.41 earned run average, and recorded a 25-3 record and at Southern Miss in his junior year, the left-handed pitcher held 3.35 ERA while striking out 103 batters.
However, for McCarty being around organized baseball is an opportunity in itself and a way to gain a new perspective for the game.
“I think if there is no opportunity for me to be on the field playing, so the next best opportunity was to find a place to coach,” McCarty said. “It’s a great feeling to be back.”
McCarty was approached by the founder of the DSCL Colton Caver, who is an assistant coach at Gulfport high school.
“I recently just moved down to the coast, and I was up at Gulfport High school working out, and he kind of passed the idea by me,” McCarty said. “I was joking and said, ‘I’m coaching,’ and then I didn’t think I would be here. (Now) I have a team, and I’m really excited about the season.”
According to Caver, having McCarty is an opportunity for the league and its players.
“He can pass on a lot,” Caver said. “He has experience in the minors. He can pass on a lot of advice to these young guys who are trying to reach that goal. Bringing him on staff this year has been a great opportunity for all these players.”
Luckily for McCarty is coaching a team that has several Oak Grove and Southern Miss ties.
“I’ve got a little brother who is in the graduating 2020 class, and a couple of them are guys that I watched play with him forever,” McCarty said. “I thought it was a cool opportunity. The Southern Miss guys, I think, just fell into my lap, but I’m glad to have them. Southern Miss is a place that I love so much.”
For example, former Oak Grove catcher Kade Shannon has known McCarty since he was in elementary school.
“I’ve actually grown up family friends with Kirk,” Shannon said. “I’ve known him since he was a freshman in high school, and I was in elementary school. It’s funny. He goofs around with me. It’s honestly what I need because I’ve played a couple of years of some serious baseball now, and it’s good to get back out with your friends for once, especially with Kirk in the coaches’ box.”
In another case, Sumrall alum and current Southern Miss outfielder Billy Garrity is another player with long term ties with McCarty.
“He and my sister went to elementary school together at Oak Grove, so I’ve known him since I was four or five years old,” Garrity said. “I’ve known him for a while, and he knows a lot about baseball. I’m glad we have somebody like that as our coach.
“He’s somebody that’s been through all four years of college and now playing minor league ball. I think he has experienced a lot that he can teach us.”
On his team alone, McCarty has three Southern Miss baseball players and two Oak Grove alums, not to mention the numerous players who had played with McCarty’s younger brother.
“I know the guys are happy to be back,” McCarty said. “I felt at home without being at home. Now we get to have a home away from home being back on the baseball field. It’s a lot of fun.”