When Tom McCarthy entered Trenton State College in 1986, he wanted to play baseball. When that didn’t work out, he decided to be a baseball broadcaster instead.
That turned out to be a very wise switch in career goals.
McCarthy, a 1990 graduate of the College, has reached his dream job, having just completed his first season as the radio voice for the New York Mets on WFAN 660 AM in New York.
“I was a big Mets fan growing up,” McCarthy said, making note of the Mets hats and the bobblehead of the great Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy that decorate his radio studio.
He said that he struggled through the tough years of the late 1970s and early ’80s before the Mets finally pulled through during his freshman year at the College. McCarthy vividly remembers being on campus when the most famous of plays took place in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
“When the ball went between (Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s) legs, the campus erupted,” he said. “I was outside Cromwell because I was so mad about what was going on.”
The Mets were losing 5-3 entering the bottom of the 10th inning before scoring three runs to win, helped by Buckner’s infamous error.
Interestingly, McCarthy began his college career as a biology major. He changed his major to communications during his junior year, when he was already writing sports articles for the Times of Trenton.
While McCarthy’s dream was to go into the sports broadcasting business, he still went back to the College to go for his master’s in science education, hoping to perhaps land a teaching job that would allow him to coach baseball.
“I always wanted to be a major league broadcaster,” he said, “but I didn’t think it was a realistic goal.”
However, McCarthy never completed the master’s program and instead entered a period in which he said he was “bit by the broadcasting bug.”
His first radio job came in 1991 as an announcer for the College’s Lions football team on WTTM 920 AM. But his big break came when the Babe Ruth League, an amateur baseball league, held its World Series in Ewing. He was able to do the play-by-play for many of those games and get some baseball broadcasting experience.
McCarthy said that his work with the Babe Ruth World Series became his audition tape that helped him land a job as director of public and media relations, as well as the radio voice, for the Trenton Thunder, a minor league baseball team that at the time was the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.
He was hired in November 1993, and according to McCarthy, “that’s where things took off.” He remained with the Thunder until the end of the 2000 season, even serving in the front office as assistant general manager from 1996-99.
At the end of the 2000 season, McCarthy finally made it to the professional level by becoming a radio broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies. He stayed for five years before the radio job for the New York Mets opened up for the 2006 season.
McCarthy’s broadcasting r?sum? goes beyond baseball as well. He has been the radio voice for Rutgers University football and Princeton University basketball and football, and he hosted a talk show on ESPN radio. Currently, he does play-by-play for St. Joseph’s University basketball and select games on College Sports Television when he is not busy with Mets broadcasts.
It is obvious speaking with McCarthy that being in the press box for Mets games is a dream come true, and it didn’t hurt that the team made a serious run at the World Series.
“Going to the postseason this year is the one thing that really stood out . Seeing what the postseason is like, that to me was and is the topper of all toppers,” he said. “It’s the brightest stage.”
McCarthy said that his other most notable memories in the broadcast booth were calling his first major-league game and watching Princeton’s men’s basketball team upset UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament. He also noted the thrill of meeting his baseball heroes that he had growing up, including Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, members of the 1986 Mets championship team who currently work as analysts for Mets games on television.
McCarthy described the hard work that goes into each of his major-league broadcasts. “It’s a lot of reading, a lot of research, a lot of studying,” he said. “You need to have a lot of stuff off the top of your head.”
But the perks of the job are just impossible to overlook. McCarthy travels with the team and gets to see great cities and ballparks throughout the country. “To see that many baseball games in a year, it’s huge,” he said. “It’s an awesome job.”
As a Mets fan, McCarthy was disappointed with the way the season ended. The Mets, defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, fell one win shy of a trip to the World Series.
“Even with the injuries, I felt that this team really had all the pieces,” he said. He predicted that the offseason will bring a lot of changes for the pitching staff, and that the team will have a new second baseman and leftfielder by the start of the 2007 season.
McCarthy, who currently lives in Allentown, N.J., with his wife and four children, has a strong connection to the Trenton area, where he attended college and got the job that catapulted him to the big stage.
In 2003, he had his first book published, “Baseball in Trenton,” which contains many photographs and captions depicting the rich history of minor league baseball in the city. He said that a number of baseball greats spent the beginning of their careers playing in Trenton, including Willie Mays, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra.
“It’s the first of a number of books I hope to write,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy encouraged students to not be afraid to be ambitious in following their dreams: “When you’re young you can be busy because you don’t have many responsibilities. Take on more than you think you can handle, because you can handle it.”