In the lower-right corner on page 47 of Clovis High’s annual baseball yearbook, a weed of a 9-year-old named McCarthy Tatum is pictured positioning himself on defense while playing in a winter league tournament.
By then, McCarthy was already becoming deep rooted in one of the central Valley's most established sports programs -- baseball in the Cougars' district.
"Oh yeah, I was their biggest fan," he says. "I always wanted to grow up and be a Cougar; it's everyone's dream that grows up around here. I looked up to those big high-schoolers."
Today, at 17, wannabe Cougars surely look up to him: The Bee's Player of the Year as a stellar pitcher/fielder/hitter for a record-tying 33-5 team that won the Tri-River Athletic Conference and Central Section Division I titles, finished top-ranked in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 4 nationally in CBS MaxPreps Xcellent 50.
All this for a kid who simply wanted to suit up in blue and gold some day, and to heck with the accolades.
"That's what everybody dreams about," he says, "but I wasn't expecting that at all; I was just expecting to be a normal guy out there having fun. I would have been totally fine with just enjoying time with my friends and playing baseball."
Conversely, next year's yearbook -- which typically has been of college quality, replete with pictures of past and current players, records and history -- will be a testament to the above-normal ability of Tatum.
He will be found ranked in the top 10 of 12 pitching and hitting single-season and career categories. Notably, he is No. 2 in career wins (25), No. 2 in at-bats (331) and No. 3 in hits (108).
This season, he went 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA, hit .296 and scored 25 runs, including the walk-off winner in the seventh inning of a 3-2 victory over TRAC rival Buchanan for the section D-I title at Rawhide Ballpark in Visalia.
"We couldn't have won it all without McCarthy Tatum," coach James Patrick says. "And that wasn't just because of his performance; it was also because of his demeanor and relationship with other players, including those who didn't play. Mac is genuinely a nice boy and very humble."
Tatum was at third base when Alan Crowley lined a ball past him and into left field to beat Buchanan.
"I was so excited," Tatum says. "I took off my helmet halfway down the line, wanted to throw it and dogpile with my friends, but I realized I had to tag home plate first."
It was the last of 65 career runs for the 6-foot-4, 175-pounder, selected in the 20th round of Major League Baseball's June amateur draft and offered a $200,000 signing bonus by the Minnesota Twins. He declined it to play for Fresno State instead as an infielder.
"I've liked growing up around here and wanted to stay local, the fantasy of the hometown kid, if that makes sense," he says. "My entire family stays in Clovis, and I wanted to stay with them a little longer."
The Cougars, with 1,171 victories, are the third-winningest baseball program in section history, trailing Fresno (1,413) and Hanford (1,269), according to section historian Bob Barnett. They went 77-29 in Tatum's career.
"When Coach Patrick brought me up my sophomore year," Tatum says, "that's when it started to hit me: I was a younger guy playing with all the seniors and I thought, 'OK, maybe I could do something.' "
As a sophomore, Tatum went 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA and hit .327. As a junior, 10-3 with a 2.49 ERA and hit .363 with 14 doubles -- No. 2 all-time for a single season at Clovis.
This season -- assuming more pressure and responsibility on the mound with another would-be drafted infielder, Jake Gatewood, asking not to pitch -- Tatum closed his pitching career with a three-hit, 4-0 win over Clovis West in the D-I semifinals.
"Mac had a great year on a freshman team that won the championship," Patrick says, "and in our league, that's a big deal. Halfway through that year, we realized this guy can play. And, then as a sophomore, we knew he was ready for varsity, no doubt.
"I can't think of one situation where he appeared to be overwhelmed. He just did his job."
THE BEE'S BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: MCCARTHY TATUM
• Grade: Senior
• School: Clovis
• Qualifications: Integral two-way player as a pitcher/third baseman for a 33-5 team that tied the program's own record (1998), along with Fowler (2007), for most wins in the 120-year history of Central Section baseball, according to historian Bob Barnett. Tatum went 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA, and hit .296 with 25 runs as the Cougars won the section Division I title and finished top-ranked in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 4 nationally by CBS MaxPreps Xcellent 50. He was 25-4 in three years for teams that went 77-29. Next: Fresno State as an infielder.
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