In one year, Scotty McCreery went from country-music-listening high school ballplayer to reigning "America Idol" touring with Brad Paisley. But the 18-year-old still feels at home on the mound, so after missing the 2011 season, he returned to Garner Magnet High School in North Carolina to earn back a pitching spot for his senior year. And he’s off to a stolid start, with a 2-0 record, a 1.03 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. The country crooner slash curveball ace gave Playbook a glimpse of his new life.
What’s a typical day these days?
If I’m touring with Brad, I’ll be home Sunday, go to school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then I hit the road Thursday through the weekend. But if I’m home like I am now, I just go to school and live like a normal kid. Except maybe I do an interview like this.
How hard do you throw?
I’m not the guy going out there throwing 90. I top out around 80, so I have to work that off-speed.
We hear the curveball is your pitch.
Yeah, I’m a finesse pitcher. I try to set up on a nice slow slurve and then hit them with the hard curve. It looks like a fastball and drops out at the last minute.
What other pitches do you use?
I throw a two-seamer and a slider that’s more like a slurve, a slow slider with a little curve. And I have my hard-break curveball. My curveball’s hard and my slider’s soft.
How much time do spend on your game now, versus before "AI?"
I can’t put as much time into baseball, but I don’t want to do something halfheartedly. The other guys are there every single day, so I’m still trying to put in as much work as I can. My dad and I bring our gloves on the road and make time to throw. Even if it’s not baseball, we’ll throw a football, just to stay active.
Does playing feel different this year?
I grew up on the mound, so that’s the same, but there were never this many people. We used to have maybe a dozen show up. Now we’ll get 100, 150, and people from Maine, Ohio, New York. It’s crazy — but great. The crowd gets into it.
How have your teammates handled that?
They’ve had changes to deal with too — a different atmosphere, the crowds, the craziness. But they’re cool. They have fun with it.
What about guys playing against you?
They talk smack. "Oh, 'American Idol' kid’s throwing." "Oh, stick to singing." Stuff like that. But it’s all good — I go out there and get them out, and I get the last laugh. And that’s what pitching’s all about.
Do you feel like baseball gives you an escape or a way to hang on to being a kid?
For sure. Baseball is my last thing from childhood. I’m a senior this year, so it’s my last year to do this. I’m just trying to go out there and enjoy it and make all the memories I can.