Anatomy of a Catch: How Hooks' Chas McCormick Went Viral
It was never Chas McCormick's intention to become a celebrity, but he's quickly seen his baseball and internet prominence fall into place.
In his case, "fall" can be taken quite literally.
On May 6, McCormick made a remarkable catch at Tulsa's ONEOK Field, robbing the Drillers' Chris Parmelee of a two-run home run. At full speed, he leaped and crashed into the 4-foot-high wall in right field. The impact caused McCormick to flip over the fence, but he miraculously held onto the ball.
The play wound up No. 2 on that night's SportsCenter Top 10 plays, and featured on Twitter by Cut4, Minor League Baseball and Starting 9, getting more than 130,000 combined views on those tweets alone. The next morning, McCormick woke up to hundreds of text messages and Twitter mentions from family, friends and strangers.
"It was pretty surreal. I made that catch and immediately thought that could be a Top 10 play," McCormick said. "That's what the [Drillers] bullpen said when I came over the fence."
Ronnie Dawson, the Hooks' center fielder, ran over to McCormick and embraced him after the play.
"I was calling 'wall, wall, wall!' and he said he didn't realize how close he was until the very end," Dawson explained. "I said, 'Hey, this is going to be on ESPN, so I want to get some TV time' and I went over and hugged him."
It was the type of highlight reel McCormick's teammates and Hooks fans alike have become accustomed to seeing.
A product of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a modest town about 45 minutes west of Philadelphia, McCormick played his college ball at nearby Division II Millersville University. At Millersville, he set the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's all-time hit record with 306. The Houston Astros drafted him in the 21st round of the 2017 draft and, according to Millersville head coach Jon Shehan, were the only organization to put him on their draft board.
"He's one of the most beloved guys in our program ever" said Shehan, whose program has produced seven Major League draft picks in 11 seasons. "I can tell you that Chas always steps up to the plate and gets hits. He's a super competitive kid and I think has a chip on his shoulder. He was one of the best players at the D-II level, and I think he wants to prove to other teams that he was overlooked coming out of college."
Despite all his successes as an elite baseball and basketball player - he was PSAC Eastern Division Athlete of the Year in 2017 and a 1,000-point hoops scorer at Henderson High School - McCormick was at first weary of the mental and physical transition to professional baseball.
"When I went to Rookie ball, I saw the pitchers throwing hard and hitters hitting it far and I asked myself 'can I do this?'" McCormick recalled. "As the years went on, I kind of adjusted to it. I learned how to act like a professional. I had to change a lot; my stance and me personally. It's something new every single year."
The 24-year-old acknowledged that he plays each game with a sense of urgency. He knows there are many later-round picks like him who have plateaued at the A-ball level. He also knows that, as he's risen through the Astros' organization, there are more scouts and coaches watching his every move.
"It's cool to get over the humps," he said. "You're going to struggle at times, but getting to Double-A, I think the biggest adjustment here is the defense. The mistakes get zeroed in because everyone's watching. When you mess up just a little bit, they'll see that."
But at each level, McCormick has been able to keep it all in check. He batted .298 in his rookie season, reaching Advanced-A Buies Creek by year's end. Last year, he spent the latter half of the season with Corpus Christi, batting .280 with a .344 on-base percentage. This season, he's averaging .290 at the plate with a Double-A-leading .468 on-base percentage through 29 games.
"He definitely progressed as a player," Shehan said. "He's always been a natural hitter. The walks went up as he's gotten older and more mature. Sometimes with him it was more staying out of his way and letting him do his thing."
Clips of McCormick's web gems and big hits typically garner the most interaction of any posts on the Hooks social media accounts. Some of those interactions are from Hooks fans, but many of them are Chas McCormick fans from Eastern Pennsylvania. One fan replied to a video of a McCormick two-run single on April 27 versus Tulsa stating: "That dude just plays and makes stuff happen. Not a day goes by that he isn't on a highlight."
"Coming from a small school and small area, I have a lot of followers and supporters," McCormick explained. "They're wishing me the best and hoping I do great. Every time I contribute and perform, a lot of them are just really happy for me. I just have a good fanbase."
But it's McCormick's willingness to put his body on the line for his always-reliable defense that garners McCormick the most Twitter mentions on a given game night. There was the reel of him tripping but still making the catch in left on April 27 versus Frisco, and his two diving plays in one inning on April 26 versus Tulsa. Still, nothing has topped the over-the-fence robbery at Tulsa that was nationally featured.
"We have a really good outfield, but knowing Chas is over there, I can cheat over a little bit more to certain hitters because I know he has range," said Dawson, the outfield leader. "I can trust that I don't have to go get everything and I know that if it's not me, it's probably going to be him that's catching it."
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