Lutheran Northwest grad to lead new USPBL club

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published January 24, 2017

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ROCHESTER — Earlier this January, the United Shore Professional Baseball League unveiled its newest franchise, the Westside Woolly Mammoths. The club joins the league’s three previously established teams, beginning play at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica on May 11.

The USPBL did not have to look far to find a leader for the expansion squad, choosing Shane McCatty to serve as the manager for the Mammoths in their maiden voyage.

“I’m very excited and thankful for the opportunity,” McCatty said. “I’m really pumped to take the next step in my career and am happy to be doing it in a great place like the USPBL.”

While he is only 29, McCatty boasts a great deal of experience on the diamond. A 2005 graduate of Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, he led the Crusaders to a 2004 state championship via his pitching and bat.

“Shane was simply a tremendous athlete, one of the best we’ve ever had here,” said Don Justice, the athletic director at LNW. “I actually taught him in PE class, and I remember how great of a competitor he was. But you could see even then early on how he was a leader, a quiet one, but someone who showed the skills you need to be a great one.”

Following his standout prep career, McCatty spent two years at Grand Rapids Community College before transferring to Oakland University. He worked his way up to becoming the No. 1 starter for the Golden Grizzlies before being drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2009.

He spent five years in the Washington organization, pitching more than 153 total innings at various levels in the minors. Less than a year later, he joined the USPBL as an assistant coach for the Utica Unicorns, helping guide the team to the inaugural league championship this past September.

“Shane was here for the first season of our league, so he has been through all the ups and downs, and he really understands what we are all about,” said Brian Berryman, executive director of baseball operations for the USPBL. “His background, his values, the kind of guy that he is personally, it made him a no-brainer for the spot.”

“I was able to see the process of creating and developing this league, and how they are really aiding players to take that next step,” McCatty said. “Being in on the ground floor let me show how great this can be. Having that comfort level is awesome, I know the staff of the whole league; it is 35 minutes from where I grew up. It makes this a really special opportunity.”

While in the Utica dugout, McCatty was groomed for the promotion by former Unicorns manager Greg Grall. While McCatty was initially focused on aiding his club’s pitchers, Grall allowed him to gain valuable experience by conducting the various responsibilities of a manager.

“Greg really helped me a ton. He allowed me to learn how to literally manage the whole game, and not just focus on my background in pitching,” McCatty said. “I was able to coach third base right away, handle defense situations and learn about bullpen management. The more I did it, I loved being involved in all of the aspects of the game.”

With their creation, Berryman and his staff began a search for who would manage the Mammoths. While they looked at many candidates, they realized they had a great option in-house.

“We are a league that is looking to not only develop players, but managers as well,” Berryman said. “We set up pros and cons for our candidates, and Shane made it very easy for us. I met with him a few days before Christmas, and after sitting down and talking with him, I felt confident enough to offer him the job that night.”

Chris Newell praised the hiring, lauding the development and leadership skills he saw from McCatty firsthand. Newell serves as the skipper for the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers, the club that fell to the Unicorns in last season’s title game.

“His familiarity with our league and its vision makes him a perfect fit,” Newell said. “I really think the league will benefit greatly by adding him. He has a great baseball pedigree. Coaching is in his genes.”

That pedigree comes from McCatty’s father, Steve. Steve McCatty was a star pitcher for Troy High and Macomb Community College before eventually making it in the majors with the Oakland Athletics. He won 63 career games at the MLB level and went on to serve as a pitching coach for the Nationals, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox.

The younger McCatty credits his upbringing in baseball for the love and passion he has for the sport today and the choice to make it a career. He said his father is one of the many friends and family members he will have rooting on the Mammoths.

“Everybody I know has been reaching out, telling me how excited and proud they are,” he said. “I definitely could not have made it here without all of the support back home. Everyone wants a hat with the cool logo. It will be fun to wear that and the ‘Flintstones’ jersey we have, but I’ll put on whatever they give me.”

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