Growing up, most athletes try their hands at multiple sports and only a few of them, like Torrington’s John McCarthy, excel like he did in his four years as a Red Raider.
McCarthy just finished his high school career where he was a three-year varsity athlete in three different sports.
He was the last line of defense as the center back for the boys soccer team, a scoring guard/forward for the boys basketball team and a staple in the Red Raiders infield at second base.
That seems like a lot of time and energy, but for the Register Citizen’s male athlete of the year, it was nothing.
“Sometimes it gets tiring, going from one sport to another, but I love sports so going from soccer to baseball to basketball over and over again, it’s fun for me. I enjoy it, “ he said. “I could play all day; I really love playing three sports. I wouldn’t want to play one.”
In soccer, McCarthy was one of a handful of sophomores thrown into the starting lineup. Together they grew into one of the best soccer teams the school had ever had and McCarthy had a lot to do with it.
McCarthy anchored the soccer team’s defense to two school records in wins (15) and shutouts (11) this season, en route to being named to the All-Area soccer team, and the Copper Division title before falling in the NVL title game for the second straight season.
“They were thrown into the spotlight as sophomores; it was a benefit for them, a lot of learning on the job. It was the foundation for what happened this season,” said Torrington boys soccer head coach Mike Fritch, who admitted McCarthy had his fair share of growing pains. “He struggled being that leader as a sophomore; he wasn’t that talkative as center back. I told him it was OK to speak up. He needed it.”
It was there in soccer where McCarthy became more comfortable with being a leader, in every sport.
“Coach Fritch really helped me communicate with all my teammates and it has helped for all three sports,” McCarthy said.
On the court, McCarthy didn’t have to lead by talking on the floor, like he had to in soccer, but as the only returning player with meaningful minutes from the season before he stepped up, helped his younger teammates grow and during the game let his play do the talking for him.
“He leads by example,” boys basketball coach Eric Gamari said. “The guys took their cue from him.”
The All-Area boys basketball selection, led the team with 15.7 points-per game and helped them to the NVL Tournament semifinals, while making a habit of hitting big shots along the way.
“He wanted that moment; he understood the importance of stepping up his game and being there,” Gamari said.
There was one specific game, at home against Holy Cross that stood out to Gamari that showed what kind of player McCarthy was.
After getting off to a hot start in the game, giving the Red Raiders an early lead, McCarthy picked up a technical foul and was sent to the bench.
“If you get a ‘T’ you sit,“ Gamari said. “The team played well, but they came back.”
With the score close and eventually tied at 70-70, Gamari went to his senior leader.
“We ran a high pick a roll for John,” Gamari added.
McCarthy got to rim and lay the ball in with seven seconds left to give Torrington the win over visiting Crusaders, 72-70.
“Ever since I was little, my dad (Jack) used to have this saying ‘worry about the next play’ and he was right,” McCarthy said. “You can’t do anything about what happened before; you can only worry about what you can do next.”
That clutch instinct and ability to want to game on his shoulders is something that McCarthy wants.
“Just want to have the ball, have the chance in that situation. I love having that,” McCarthy said. “I love being down a run bases loaded, being down late in the game and having the chance. I love that opportunity.”
McCarthy would again be clutch for the Red Raiders, but in the spring it was for the baseball team.
During the first round of the NVL Tournament against Derby, McCarthy didn’t start the game off well.
In the first five innings, he made two fielding errors; he struck out looking and made a mental mistake getting thrown out at home in the first inning.
He called it a “slow start.”
With the game tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth and a runner on first and two outs, McCarthy stepped to the plate, true to form, worrying about the next play, the next pitch.
He forgot about everything that happened earlier in the game and drove a pitch deep that split the Derby center fielder and right fielder, scoring teammate Stanly Rijo from first base giving the Red Raiders the lead that they would hold on to, advancing to the NVL semifinals.
In the semifinals, again it was McCarthy who laced a two-out RBI double scoring Rijo, this time in the top of the seventh, to give the Red Raiders a 1-0 lead.
Torrington wouldn’t hold on as Holy Cross would come back to win the game in the bottom of the inning.
Overall, for the Red Raiders to be three outs away from the NVL title game was something that didn’t seem possible at the beginning of the year as the Red Raiders started the season 0-3, including a 28-14 loss to St. Paul on opening day.
They would rally to finish the season 17-7 and win the Copper Division title.
McCarthy, who was again named to the All-Area team, this time in baseball, was a huge factor in the turnaround, batting .494 and adding 40 hits.
“It started with guys like him, buying in,” baseball head coach Pat Richardson said. “He’s a competitor but he can keep the team loose.”
It was that trait that Richardson saw when McCarthy was just a sophomore.
With an opening at second base McCarthy was eyeing to start, but Richardson decided to go with another player to start the season.
That wouldn’t last.
“I brought him in the second game of the year to fill in and he never left,” Richardson said.
McCarthy would be a staple at second base and in the lineup for the Red Raiders until he graduated and when spring rolls around next season there will be a different look in the Torrington infield.
“It’s going to be a different feeling when I hit the first ground ball to the right side next season,” Richardson said.
It wasn’t just on the field where McCarthy excelled; he was named a CIAC Scholar Athlete this past year and won the Omar N. Pollack Scholarship for his involvement in community activities, volunteering for PAL basketball and baseball, Elks soccer and the YMCA Mud Run, along with his academic standing where he had a 95.33 GPA. He was also a part of the Student Council.
McCarthy heads to Roger Williams (Bristol, Rhode Island) where he will continue his soccer career and his academics in Criminal Justice.
The decision to pick one sport in college was a tough one, for someone who has played more than one sport his entire life.
“I tested the water in all three sports, to see where I was and I really loved the school Roger Williams and they offered me the best opportunity in soccer,” McCarthy said. “I love the game of soccer, being out there on the field, it’s one of the better feelings and there is nothing like it. Going to play at next level is very exciting.”
With his high school career behind him, McCarthy has racked up a ton of memories but few stand out.
“Playing hard every game, the Naugatuck games in soccer, beating them on our home field, the Kennedy (basketball) game and finally getting through against them in the NVL Tournament game and the Derby and Holy Cross (baseball) games coming through,” McCarthy said. “I want to be remembered as the guy that never gave in.”