East Xtra: McCarthy still a driving force

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Tom McCarthy received a completely unexpected call in February 2013.

The longtime St. Johns-Lefty's manager was coming off a great season in which he led the Saints to the NABF World Series championship game, falling a victory short of winning the program's first national title.

His work must have been noticed by more than just those in the Greater Pittsburgh Federation Baseball League, as that February day he received a call from the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame saying he was going to be part of the 2013 class.

"I got the call and I was like, 'Holy geez,'" said McCarthy, a Plum native. "You never expect something like that. It's a credit to all the players we've had."

But of course McCarthy has been a big reason why St. Johns-Lefty's has had the players it has had over the years.

McCarthy, 60, started playing for St. Johns in the 1970s at the age of 19. By age 27, he was a player-coach and about five years later he dropped the player and dedicated all his efforts to managing the squad.

"Trying to sell the team better and get better people to play, leaving myself out of the lineup was the best way," McCarthy said. "I was able to be more objective about our team when I wasn't playing."

And the Saints started to become a powerhouse at the turn of the millennium.

Since 2000, St. Johns-Lefty's has won 12 of the 14 Greater Pittsburgh Federation League titles, including each of the past eight.

And, after finishing as the NABF World Series runner-up in 2007 and 2012, McCarthy and the Saints reached the pinnacle last season by winning the program's first national title.

"We've had a great core group of about six or seven guys that have been with us throughout the run," McCarthy said. "And we've always had very, very good pitching. You can have great hitters, and we have, but you don't win all the league and regional championships we have without possessing very good pitching."

McCarthy's core group that is still on the team today consists of outfielder/assistant coach Rick Krist, designated hitter Jim Jastkowski, catcher Rich Satcho, outfielder/infielder Greg Stokes, outfielder Andy Blackwell and first baseman Nate Thimons.

After being inducted last year, McCarthy was asked to help the NSPBA select players from the area to be inducted into the Hall of Fame when it opens its museum this November in Evansville, Ind. McCarthy will also be recognized at the ceremony as part of last season's class.

McCarthy came up with more than 20 names, 15 of whom were selected to be inducted this season. And four -- Krist, Jastkowski, Satcho and Thimons -- came from his core group on the Saints.

They've become like a family, and every player who joins the team is welcomed in like family as well, which is another reason McCarthy believes his team has enjoyed the success it has.

"We were all at a wedding in May and getting a picture of the team, and the girlfriend of one of the player's asks, 'Can I get in on the picture with the cult,'" McCarthy said. "And we're not a cult, but we are family, and once you play for us, you're always a part of us.

"We have a saying inscribed on our championship rings that says, 'Once a thing, always a thing.' And that's really how it is."

And McCarthy, who also coached Plum High School from 2003-05 and was an assistant at Woodland Hills for a few seasons, is the patriarch of the Saints' family.

"Like anything, when you do something as long as he has and do it well, obviously there's a love of the game," Krist said of McCarthy. "He's so persistent and dedicated. He's always networking to try to acquire players. He'll add a shortstop or a key pitcher.

"But the key thing is the consistency. We've been together so long and none of us would have gotten this far without each other. So it's special that we'll go in together."

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