TAMPA BAY, Fla.— Joe McCarthy had to take a step back at the beginning of his professional career.
The outfielder, a fifth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, had back surgery in his junior year of college. It caused him to change his outlook on baseball.
Overcoming the physical burden of back surgery at such a young age was something that McCarthy had to mentally accept prior to the draft.
“I cherish my health a lot more than I did, I took for granted just how nice it is to be completely healthy and be able to play the game of baseball,” he said. “Yeah, it was tough, but I definitely, definitely changed the way I look at things after my back surgery.”
The surgery was just one small portion of what was happening in McCarthy’s life at the time.
“The draft actually happens during the post-season in college baseball, so I got drafted and still had to play for UVA. I got drafted, two weeks later, a National Championship, and then a week after that I’m making my debut in pro ball,” he said. “This off-season, it was cool just to sit down and cherish how blessed I was the past couple months and everything that had happened to me.”
McCarthy says he will be able to improve on his game this season.
“I was ready to play last year, but I just wasn’t at full strength like I wanted to be. Health-wise I was ready, but physically I don’t think I was,” he said. “This year, I’m going into the season the way I want to be. I’m at a good weight, strength that I wanted to be, so I’m hoping for an improvement on this year.”
The outfielder’s positive attitude is what helped him the most when overcoming an unforeseen obstacle in the early stages of his professional career.
“It wasn’t a lack of work ethic that caused me to not be at 100 percent physically. it was just back surgery; what are you going to do about it? Complaining about it wasn’t going to help me at all. There’s no time for it,” he said. “You just have to go out there, give it your all with what you’ve got and play with the cards you are dealt, and just go with it and that’s what I did.”