McCafferty going from Small Ball to Moneyball

  • Written by Derek Johnson

There’s an old expression: “Act like you’ve been there before.” But that advice isn’t always easy to follow.

Take Nolan McCafferty, for example. During one game in 2018, he walked up to the plate in the bottom of the tenth inning. His Pomona Pitzer Sagehens trailed Pacific Lutheran 16-14. There were two runners on and one out. He took a practice swing, stepped into the batter’s box and peered out at the pitcher. 

nolan 1Former Woodinville Falcon Nolan McCafferty (right) with his dad. (Courtesy photo)

“The first pitch was a fastball middle in,” McCafferty said. “I took a good swing at it and drove it over the left-center wall. I didn’t know it was out at first, so I sprinted around first base and then halfway to second I thought `Oh it’s out! I’d better slow down and look a bit more casual.’

“I don't really have enough experience hitting home runs to have the feel for when it's going over the fence,” he added with a laugh. “I only had one home run in high school, and four or five in college. I've never been a big home run hitter.”

McCafferty called that his favorite moment in his three seasons at Pomona. The former Woodinville Falcon is playing shortstop. In 2019, he batted .278 with 2 home runs and 34 RBIs in 39 games.

McCafferty may have a history of playing “small ball” at Woodinville and Pomona. But his bright future might include some Moneyball: This summer he’s interning with Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles.

“It all started out with my advisor at school, who is a stats professor,” he said. “He has a history of coaching on the baseball team. He works with players and guys who are good at stats and math. He's really good at sending guys up into major league internships. There are double digit alumni [from Pomona] who are working in front offices, which is pretty cool.”

McCafferty carries a double major at Pomona College and enjoys mathematics. And yes, he has seen the movie Moneyball. In that film, the Oakland A’s general manager (played by Brad Pitt) is faced with a limited budget with which to build his ball club. He relies heavily on his assistant GM (played by Jonah Hill) who specializes in sabermetrics to scout and analyze players. 

nolan 2Nolan McCafferty (#3) arrives at home plate as teammates celebrate his 3-run homer that beat Pacific Lutheran. (Courtesy photo)

“I thought working in the front office would be cool,” McCafferty said. “I looked around the league seeing if there was anyone willing to hire me. Baltimore was the first team that got back to me and it just ended up working out.”
But here’s the true litmus test: McCafferty acknowledges his ownership of a fantasy baseball team. He named it after Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“My team is called the Corey Seagrams – yeah like the drink,” he said. “It’s a bit of a pun. This year has been a little disappointing. We have twelve teams in the league, and right now I am in third or fourth place. Last year I was runner up, but this year I've had some injuries. We’re looking at a big second half!” 

McCafferty has one more season next year to play for Pomona. But he also looks back fondly on his Woodinville Falcon days.

“We went to the state championship [Final 4] my sophomore and senior years,” he said. “Even though we didn't win a single game in Pasco, that was my favorite time. My favorite game was during my senior year, in pouring rain against Mount Si late in the season. We ended up winning on a walk-off hit by my friend Taylor Merry.”

Then he chuckled, as he reflected on playing “small ball” for Woodinville coach Alan Dillman. “That has stayed with me,” McCafferty said.

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