This summer might be the last time Matt McDermott ever gets to wear the “tools of ignorance,” but that isn’t keeping him from enjoying every minute of a life in professional baseball. Maria Jaral/McKinney Courier-Gazette
When the Blue Thunder’s inaugural season in McKinney comes to a close later this summer, it will mark the end of an era in the life of the man that in large part has made this city’s first professional franchise tick from the get go.
The team’s director of sales and marketing, public relations guru and, maybe most importantly to him, bullpen catcher, Matt McDermott has lived his dream of a life in professional baseball. This fall he knows he’s going to wake back up, but even when he’s gone he’ll have left his mark on the game he loves.
And as McDermott thinks about the end, he can’t but help to reminisce about the beginning.
Born and bred in Connecticut and yet to lose his yankee drawl, McDermott originally came to the Lone Star State to attend business school at Southern Methodist.
“They had a club team,” McDermott said. The Pony athletic program hasn’t had a varsity baseball team in quite some time. “I spent four years there, from ’93 to ’96 playing ball and just loved it.”
From there, McDermott went back to Connecticut and tried out for a semipro team. He hooked on with the Waterbury Spirit, though it was only as a bullpen catcher. He didn’t get paid and he didn’t play, but he says it was a dream job.
With the Spirit, McDermott made his first connection with the team’s manager and current Fort Worth Cats leader Stan Hough.
A year later McDermott hung up his spikes for the real world, jumping head first into the world of stock trading. Back in Texas, he then applied for and was admitted into the MBA program at the University of Texas in Austin, but never got that degree; instead he stayed a working man.
Fast-forward to 2005 and McDermott found himself spending the 9-to-5 with a day-trading software company. He got back in touch with his old mentor, and was in his third year as a spot bullpen catcher for Hough and the Cats.
“I had work obligations and I couldn’t do it that often,” McDermott said. “I tried again in 2006.” With more of the same results. “Then the [Continental Baseball League] came about in 2007, and I came on with the Lizards.”
Little did McDermott know that at one point late in the season he would add another job to his already taxing list as Lewisville’s stat keeper, public address announcer, and part-time commentator, bullpen catcher and first-base coach - the same jobs he now holds for the Blue Thunder. But this was a gig he surely didn’t mind.
“I can actually say I was a minor league ball player,” he said.
Then a 33-year-old, McDermott got his long awaited chance to play professional baseball when the Lizards’ starting catcher sustained a mid-game injury. And in the seventh inning, former Major Leaguer and then Lizards’ manager Tom Goodwin called on his stud bullpen catcher.
“I was as nervous as anything that first inning, even though it was mop-up duty,” he said. “I had a 7-pitch at bat. I foul-tipped a strikeout. I tried. At least I made contact. Then on defense on had a near-collision at home plate and four put-outs on four strikeouts.”
A year later, McDermott is now busting his tail on a daily basis for the Blue Thunder, doing his same ole’ same ole’ routine of working every possible job as undeniably the franchise’s most valued worker.
That’s been the case at every stop in his baseball career, one that has seen him pay his dues and then some.
And wherever he’s been, McDermott has always made it a point to give something back. And at every opportunity, including after every possible home game this season in McKinney, he gives a postgame lesson to the attending kids. It’s a tradition he hopes continues for the CBL long after he’s gone.
“I remember a picture of Willie Mays, playing stickball with the kids at the Polo Grounds,” McDermott said. “I was like, you know what, if Willie Mays can make the time to help out the kids, why can’t I?
“The reasons I do my lessons every night is that at this level, especially at 34-years old, you know that this game, every game could be your last,” he added. “I look at as I want to pass the torch on the kids.”
And as he returns into the fast-paced world of stocks and bonds, this time hanging up his baseball cleats for good, we can all only hope that this is one torch that has truly been passed.
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