Out of the Past, Part II

Published: October 17, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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At one time or another, all of us have benefited from the inspiration of someone – a teacher, mentor – someone. John McCarthy, a friend and teacher based in Washington, D.C., inspires excellence in his students. “The Manny Burriss Story,” from May 2008, is but one example.

USA TODAY – May 10, 2008 – Manny Burriss went 3-for-4 with a two-run triple Friday versus the Phillies.

John McCarthy teaches kids the skills they need both on and off the field – focus, persistence, generosity, and humor. He’s more interested in teamwork than batting averages, and more concerned with effort than talent. Ultimately, he wants them to understand that bad calls and good calls have a way of evening out both in the game and in life.

McCarthy describes himself as “an average college kid and washout baseball pitcher” in the Baltimore Orioles organization who, in 1992, started his Home Run Baseball Camp for kids. From running what has become the biggest summer camp in Washington D.C. to the critically acclaimed inner city reading and baseball program Elementary Baseball, John has worked with over 15,000 kids from every socio-economic background. He also serves on the adjunct faculty at Wilson High School, teaching Alternatives to Violence to over one hundred juniors and seniors each year.

Mac shared a personal story with me that proves how much difference one person can make in the life of another.

“‘Mac, this is Manny. I got the call up to the Bigs!’

“As text messages go, this one was mint.

“Emmanuel Burriss, the boy who bounded across my little league field soaking up every fungo, was now a grown man saying goodbye to the AAA bushes and hello to the Major Leagues as the new shortstop for the San Francisco Giants. It was thoughtful for him to take the time to send the old coach a heads up and it sent a chill down my spine as I read it walking into dinner.

“Manny was a regular on Garrison Elementary’s hardpan, pray-for-divine-guidance-and-a-good-hop, field that doubled as the parking lot on Sundays. He grew up across 13th Street on a block blessed with a roving crew of high school and college bound athletes whose constant play and competition marked their childhood.

“Working with every one of them in a program called Elementary Baseball at Garrison, our coaching staff tried to teach them to play with joy, win with class and lose with grace. Manny attended a local Catholic School but was a welcome drop-in at practices. He took to competition naturally and craved spirited games.

“As he grew, Manny began developing into a strong prospect.  He had a strong baseball IQ, a great family with rock solid values and a tenacious work ethic that wrung every drip of talent possible. Of course, Manny had many gifts that mark a pro athlete.

“Manny went on to coach for me at Home Run Baseball Camp where he was known for his sincere and likeable nature.  He relished working with the campers on their swings, getting them to embrace full hustle and taught them to be All Stars from the neck up.

“I never saw Manny raise his voice to a player or ‘big time’ any fellow coach. He jumped at the chance to join my coaching delegation to visit my program Beisbol y Libros in Consuelo, Dominican Republic. He was humbled by the vicious hunger and economic poverty he saw up close and inspired by the world’s diamond mine of baseball prospectos. I remember him sitting quietly visiting with the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception who have spent a lifetime in Consuelo creating solutions to complex issues of social justice.

“Good coaches take every player’s baseball career seriously and nurture them fairly. Whether they become big leaguers in the classroom, the emergency room or at shortstop in ‘The Show,’ each player who gives full effort is to be celebrated and honored.”


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