Ryan McCarthy thought he knew his plans.
During his senior year at Pinecrest Academy, he was a standout two-sport athlete: a triple option quarterback in football and a power hitter in baseball. His baseball prowess became so pronounced during the spring that major league scouts eventually came out to see him. Despite that, with a football scholarship from The Citadel on the table, he felt like that sport was his best option over professional baseball.
When he stepped foot onto campus, though, he was immediately reminded about his success in baseball, and all of that attention came as a reminder of just how much he loved the game.
“I think deep down, I wanted to play baseball the whole time,” McCarthy said. “It didn't really cross my mind until a couple of people started bringing it up to me. I was all football, and thinking about football all the time. People started bringing it up to me and I thought, ‘Maybe it would be a good idea.’”
And so far, it has been. As of April 3, McCarthy sports a .309 batting average with 17 RBIs in his second season with the Bulldogs, with those stats being good enough for third and second on the team, respectively. Playing two sports again has had its challenges, though, especially in the early going.
McCarthy playing baseball in college was always a consideration, especially to former Pinecrest baseball coach Ryan Weingart. He, McCarthy and his father talked about that possibility extensively, but with a football offer set in stone, the Paladins and McCarthy didn’t want to push their luck.
“I think the thing was just getting him on campus, because we had originally tried to see if he could do both right from the get-go,” Weingart said. “But we were kind of hesitant about that, to bring that upon the football staff just because he's already got this offer from them and he's kind of in.”
After McCarthy graduated in 2017, Weingart did what he could to help his former player. He had a brief conversation over the phone with Citadel baseball coach Tony Skole to vouch for him.
“Just being a baseball guy and just having him for four years… I don't want to say it's a waste of talent, but having a bat out of his hands for the rest of his life was hard for me to swallow,” Weingart said. “When you put that thing in his hands, he's a vicious guy at the plate.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy was beginning conversations about the move with Skole and head football coach Brent Thompson. Thankfully for McCarthy, Skole, a graduate of The Citadel, was in a similar position in his playing days.
“He was really open to it just because he played both sports here and he knew it was possible,” McCarthy said. “He just said that I had to be a dude over there at (football), and I'd be able to come play baseball. But I had to make myself known over there before I could actually come over to baseball and play that.”
McCarthy did his best to do that in his freshman season. He got some work as a scout team quarterback early in the year before coaches decided to transition him to wide receiver. He found some success in that role, racking up 134 yards on the season with a touchdown against Charleston Southern.
“It was pretty easy to learn -- quarterback's a lot of stuff,” McCarthy said. “There's a lot of things that you have to know (at quarterback), and at receiver it's kind of a solo position. You've just got to worry about what you're doing out there, so it's a little bit easier.”
Focusing on football early in his freshman year made McCarthy miss the early part of the baseball season. He jumped in as best as he could and still found ways to contribute, hitting .262 with 11 RBIs over his 42 games played.
During his sophomore year, Skole and Thompson have done their best to accommodate McCarthy’s situation. The football spring game was moved up, and they’ve all decided to have games take priority over practices. He rarely has time to rest — there are instances when he’s gone straight from football scrimmages to baseball games, or finishes a baseball game late just to wake up early for football practice.
Despite all that, he wouldn’t change his situation at all. There may come a day where all that pays off, either in college or even in professional baseball if he manages to get that same kind of attention again. But most of all, he’s doing what he loves, which is good enough for him.
“It's definitely tiring but it's something that I love to do,” McCarthy said. “I like it a lot better than just sitting around. I love sports, I love playing, and I’m all about it.”