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Keegan McCarty: "Everyone has a special meaning"

SJO pitcher Keegan McCarty
Going into this baseball season, Keegan McCarty had a long list of personal goals he was set on accomplishing this season.

That dream was interrupted by what appeared to be a temporary postponement to the season, and then weeks later the inevitable cancellation of the entire 2020 season, courtesy of the Coronavirus pandemic.

"This was the year I was going to prove I was the number one and going to set so many goals to achieve for myself," he said confidently. "It wasn't as much about (me not being able to improve my game) statistics that disappoint me, but it’s the way it ended. I was expecting top end running onto the field winning the state championship, not this."

Advice from a senior
"Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t wish things to be over quicker then they should be. Academically , don’t wait until the last second to do homework and study for tests. Athletically, enjoy the game and love every second you have with the team."
Baseball, especially playing with his fellow seniors after going through tears, joy together, and learning to fight through the difficult times, was the best thing to happen to him through high school. His best memories at SJO are from overnight baseball trips over the years and every one of the Homecoming assemblies he has attended.

"The pitchers and hitters were finally starting to click and all I could think was, 'Wow'... this year was going to be so special," said the four-year veteran hurler while explaining how much he had matured as player and personally. "This is why it’s all disappointing when there is so much potential and it gets taken in a matter of four or five days before the start of the season. Last year was not what we wanted, this was our revenge tour and no one was going to stop us."

McCarty is disappointed but not bitter about the season the will never be. He genuinely believes Gov. J.B. Pritzker has made the right decisions so far during the pandemic. He assured me if he was governor, he would have taken the exact same steps.

"I would rather things get shut down now to help slow down the number and flatten the curve so by next school year students are allowed back at school," he explained. "Even though we caught it at the wrong time and seniors are missing graduations and their final seasons it’s better to be safe than sorry.

"I just want to be able to play my first college ball in the fall and I know seniors across the country want to put their pads on for the last time and shutting things down now is what is necessary."

While fellow classmates are swallowing the bitter pill of no en mass graduation ceremony with family and friends until later this summer, a canceled Prom and no spring sports season, McCarty, with brutal honesty, described bigger, more bitter pills growing up.

"There’s been a couple difficult times, but I think the one that hit me the most was when I was younger," he said when asked what was the most difficult time in his life and what he learned from it. He hopes the story won't damage his relationship with his family, but a story nonetheless he wanted to share. "When I was younger I had to witness some horrible things that kind of affected who I am today."

Growing up he watched his father and step sister fight, in his words, "all the time."

"Sometimes it would be physical. One time I had to leave on a school day and go stay with my grandma in Indiana, and come back the next day for school," he recounted. "I had to witness cops come to the household countless times when my sister would run away or cause a disturbance with my dad."

McCarty, who lives in St. Joseph, feels like he acquired a high level of inner strength and resiliency from this turbulent period in his childhood. Through the emotional and difficult episodes one of the important lessons he learned was to value those around him.

"This taught me to respect those around me as everyone has a special meaning to someone’s life. Fighting with each other everyday can create negative effects on someone," he explained. "It taught me how to be strong on the inside and not let things get to me so easily. Although, sometimes it still happens and I keep everything to myself."

His favorite classes at St. Joseph-Ogden High School have been Accounting I and Accounting II with Mrs. Harbaugh and Civics with Mr. Beckett. His favorite teachers through the years include Mrs. Izard at PVO; Mr. Risley at St. Joseph Middle School; and Mrs. Veronica Harbaugh, Mr. Marshall Schacht, and Mr. Jeff Kieffer at SJO.

When the homework is done and practice is over, McCarty says he enjoys deer hunting, running and working out.

After high school, he will attend Lake Land College where he will major in accounting and play baseball. He chose the Lakers' program because they hired Julio Godinez, a former assistant at Eastern Illinois University. He is looking forward to expanding his knowledge and pitching skills from an experienced Division I pitching coach.

"I chose to go to Lake Land as it wasn’t necessarily close to home and I wanted to experience college life away from St. Joe and the Champaign area," he said. "There were opportunities to go further away but understanding I’m from a smaller school I wanted to go the JUCO route to get used to playing against bigger and better players.

McCarty said he will miss a couple things when heads off to college in the fall.

The most important one is his comedic sidekick and fellow senior Joey Acton. The duo, whose bond is as strong as any pair of sibling according to McCarty, will never fade.

"(We've) even have been asked if we were brothers countless of times," he said. "Our very own guidance counselor, Mrs. Rein, has mixed us up!"

Acton, says McCarty, has provided a number of side-splitting, hilarious moments throughout their years friendship.

"This dude does some pretty funny stuff, such as throwing a golf club into the little water areas when we putt-putt or crack jokes that make me laugh for five-plus minutes. Sad that we will be an hour apart in just four months."

When discussing his future after college, McCarty has no idea where he will be in ten years. One thing is for sure, he won't be living in Illinois. He is thinking California or maybe Florida. He is not picky as long as it is somewhere with warm weather, and maybe on a farm away from lots of people.

"It’s really hard to know," he said. "I think it depends on how college goes with baseball, but if that doesn’t work then I believe I will be working at a business as an accountant."

"I will try to reach and help out young ball players and coach a team hopefully," he added.