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OUR HEALTH: Minor League Play, Major League Attitude

Published On: Jun 17 2013 10:17:06 AM EDT   Updated On: Dec 10 2013 10:45:40 AM EST
Sarah Cox -

Michael McCarthy’s nickname is Google and for good reason. Yes, he’s a crack baseball player, a right-hand pitcher for the minor league team, the Salem Red Sox.  But he’s also a good student who earned a bachelor of science degree in biology and plans to start on his MBA soon. McCarthy gets his motivation honestly – he grew up playing sports, eating right, and studying hard.   

McCarthy, who is 25 years old, 6’3” and 185 pounds, struggles to maintain this weight through 142 games in a little over five months. That means that he has to be very cognizant of what he eats, which is usually a protein-packed diet. He and his parents have bonded over cooking, he says, enjoying trying out new and nutritious foods. “For a long time, I thought cooking veggies and staying healthy was hard, but once you try it and make it a habit, it starts to become easy,” he explains. “I’m not afraid of using spices and failing, just as in a sport. You’re not going to succeed the first time, but continue to try it.”   

He says that YouTube is a great resource for learning how to deal with, for example, bok choy or kale. “I started cooking for my parents, who eat healthy as well, and then we started to bounce ideas off each other. It became a bond,” he notes.   

He describes himself as a “true omnivore,” and says he has to eat a protein-packed diet because he is also a “hard gainer,” meaning that he is a pretty thin guy for his sport. Add to that fact the challenge that he and his teammates are on the road a lot, getting in sometimes at 4 a.m.. He has to focus on his diet while he’s traveling, but he says it’s become a fun task that he has been able to meet better every day.   

Growing up, McCarthy’s dad taught him that in team sports, your coach is the boss and you are out there to fill the need of the team. “When you are a part of things bigger than yourself, you learn to trust, and you learn the responsibility of having someone else’s trust. As I’ve continued to grow up and play at high levels, that’s even truer.”   

McCarthy says that despite having players from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Netherlands, they all come together as a team. That means whether one player eats rice and beans, or another eats a sandwich, they’ve learned how to interact despite significant differences in language and cultures.   

It also means staying in shape for the team. His perspective is that baseball is very unique. Each batter is up every nine times, so it’s very much a team sport. Then, he says, the pitcher relies on his fielders to back him up, no matter how good he is. “I think that baseball provides an opportunity to experience success and failure, but teammates are right there to pick you up,” he explains.  “The next time around, you may be the one picking a teammate up. Failure is something you experience for the rest of your life – jobs you won’t get, moments you want to teach children a life lesson you can’t teach them, moments you can’t succeed, from cooking dinner to how you perform your job.”   

McCarthy, who transferred from the University of Redlands in California, where he had an academic scholarship, to California State University in Bakersfield, knows how to roll with those opportunities and setbacks. Yes, he wanted to study medicine. But now he’s a ball player with his sights set on pursuing the major leagues. Meanwhile, he knows the virtue of failure and how to turn those moments into success.   

“I really believe baseball provides the opportunity to learn from failure how to achieve something. It’s an extremely positive feeling that comes out of that, because of the delayed gratification,” he says.

He adds that he sees how he has an impact on the world around him and wants to translate that into working with kids and baseball in pitching camps. “This will be an opportunity to show kids how to meet challenges and incorporate discipline into their daily lives,” he says.
According to an article, “Benefits of Teamwork in Sports,” research has shown that children and teens that play sports are more likely to have a positive self-image over those who don’t. This is especially true for girls, who will be less overweight and at the same time, be a part of the team that gives compliments for performance.

It is also a means of teaching accountability and responsibility, as McCarthy pointed out. Failing to execute a play teaches taking responsibility but also learning what went wrong, why, and how to improve. According to a 2010 New York Times article, separate studies from two economists point out that women’s team sports “can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects.” Today, 41 years after Title IX was enacted, research has shown that the increase in girls’ athletic participation is associated with a seven percent lower risk of obesity in women.

Both sexes benefit from team sports in the way of health, resiliency, team building, discipline and friendship. And these advantages carry on throughout life.