Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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Martinez: Mountain View’s Riley McCarthy believes there is safe, smart way to play

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published:
3 Photos
University of Portland signee Riley McCarthy spent the summer and fall playing in baseball tournaments and showcases, leading the Mountain View High School senior to conclude there is a safe and smart way for high school sports to return in the 2020-21 school year.
University of Portland signee Riley McCarthy spent the summer and fall playing in baseball tournaments and showcases, leading the Mountain View High School senior to conclude there is a safe and smart way for high school sports to return in the 2020-21 school year. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Riley McCarthy believes there is a safe and smart way for high school sports to return this school year.

That’s because the Mountain View High School senior experienced it firsthand, playing baseball in the summer and fall.

McCarthy said playing baseball in 2020 was far from normal. But playing with the Vancouver Mavericks American Legion team or in a variety of showcase events in Oregon and Washington, McCarthy saw that it was possible.

“I think you have to acknowledge that there are risks when you do things,” McCarthy said, referring to playing during the pandemic. “And there are not a lot of high school kids who don’t understand that. But I still think there’s an understanding that there is an opportunity to do this in a safe way.”

McCarthy says he’s frustrated not by seeing high school athletes in other states playing sports, but seeing schools in those states not taking every simple precaution.

“I’m not saying that things are going to go back to normal; I don’t think many high school athletes expect that,” McCarthy said. “But I think they expect an effort to try and give us something, and to try to do the things that we know limit the spread of this. And I guess that’s why I’m feeling more frustrated, having participated in the things in the summer and the fall, seeing that ‘OK there’s a safe way to do this.’

“We even had a game … and they were like ‘OK even when you’re on the playing field, you’ve got to have a mask of some kind if you’re near someone.’ So as a catcher, playing the whole game, I had to wear a mask under my mask. It’s funny, but it was fine. I’m still playing baseball. I’m not complaining about this minor inconvenience. These are things I’m willing to do, and I think most high school athletes are willing to do.”

In addition to playing baseball, McCarthy is also the starting quarterback for the Mountain View football team.

Earlier this fall, McCarthy was able to take part in limited workouts on the football field. And just being around his teammates was a biggest lift for a self-proclaimed people person.

“I think the thing I realized the most, having those things taken away, is how important those interactions are for me,” McCarthy said. “Feeling very isolated when you’re normally — especially when you’re an athlete in a team sport — surrounded by people.

“Even if you feel like you’re more of an introvert, you’re still used to having 50 people around you in the football locker room all the time. The thing I missed was just being around people my age. Those are the interactions I find myself missing now. It’s not the football. And I think it’s the same way for everybody.”

McCarthy said that feeling also carries over to his studies.

“I liked going to school,” he said. “I know that makes me weird for people my age. But being around a bunch of people every day was awesome. And I loved going to school. I liked being around people. I liked being in my classes.”

McCarthy is used to dealing with the pressure of a heavy workload of Advance Placement classes. But he understands why so many of his classmates are struggling with online learning, and why many of them choose not to show up to their virtual classes.

“It’s difficult with the online school and staying connected and feeling like you have a place to do it,” he said. “For me, the stress has been multiplied by a factor of 10, just because you’re not in the space where you’re supposed to do it.”

Last mont, McCarthy signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Portland.

He said three things drove him to sign with the Pilots — being able to play at school where his parents could watch him play, playing at a school that would not be a financial burden to his family and playing for a team where he could make an immediate impact.

The University of Portland checked all those boxes. Also McCarthy was also impacted by something he read Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec say about transferring from Notre Dame.

“He said ‘I went to Notre Dame for the brand, but I went to BC for the people,’ ” McCarthy said. “I wanted to keep that sort of thing in mind when I chose my school. I wanted to make sure I was going someplace where I really trusted the people that were going to be taking care of me for four years, or three years hopefully.”

Three years because McCarthy hopes his baseball future includes getting drafted, perhaps even as early as next July.

“My next goal is to hear my name called next July,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know if I’m that guy, but that’s what I’m working toward.”

And it’s the thing that keeps McCarthy going, especially now when he is not surrounded by his teammates or even his classmates.

“I know it’s one of those things that makes me who I am,” McCarthy said of the social interaction of school. “And now I don’t have those things, so I just have to power through. Just put your head down because things are going to change, and I know that. Whatever the timeline and it’s been extended a million times, put your head down, keep working and, at some point, things will be back to normal.”

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