McCormick proving more than a viral star

Astros prospect who wowed with catch pacing circuit at plate

Chas McCormick has already tied his career high in home runs with four through 42 games this season. (Joshua Tjiong/MiLB.com)

By Brian Stultz / MiLB.com | May 30, 2019 10:30 AM

Chas McCormick knew that he was going to do some sort of somersault over the fence in right field, but he had only one worry on his mind: holding onto the ball.

"The catch was pretty easy, honestly," the Double-A Corpus Christi outfielder said. "It had a little top spin so, as I jumped, I didn't have to jump as high as I thought I would have to. When I caught the ball, I knew that the hard part was coming as I was going in different directions pretty quickly. The fence was short, so I knew what was going to happen. I knew that I was going to tumble over."

That grab came on May 6 at Tulsa, and it quickly made McCormick an internet celebrity. The play went viral and earned a spot among the Top 10 Plays of the Day on ESPN's "Sportscenter." 

"I got a bunch of notifications for Twitter, texts, Instagrams, direct messages and it was going off for days, which was a cool part," he said. "Obviously, it has never happened to me before. I mean, as I caught it, I thought it might have a chance of being on the top 10. Some of the guys ... and even the Dodgers bullpen were like, 'Oh, that might go on the top 10.'"

Video: Hooks' McCormick goes over the wall for catch

Just as the leaping catch launched McCormick into the spotlight, a dramatic breakout at the dish has catapulted him up the Texas League leaderboards. The Pennsylvania native entered the season with 171 professional games under his belt since signing with the Astros in 2017, and in that time he'd hit six homers and walked 58 times. But over 42 games with the Hooks since this year's Opening Night, he's gone yard four times (matching his career high for a season) and walked a league-best 31 times (12 shy of his career high for a season). Through May 28, his .429 on-base percentage not only leads the Texas League but is third in all of Double-A ball -- no small feat for a 21st-rounder and 631st overall Draft pick.

"I've always been pretty simple at the plate: see the ball, hit the ball," McCormick said. "I've been seeing more pitches, swinging at better pitches, more pitches that I can drive. ... So I think I have been a little more patient. I'm pretty confident with two strikes that I will find a pitch I can drive and I'm getting into deeper counts."

Experience has also played a part in his breakout. After seeing time across three levels (Rookie Advanced, Class A, Class A Advanced) in his debut campaign, McCormick got into 69 Double-A games during his first full season last year. Through it all, he's been learning and making adjustments.

"[It's about] just being there and figuring out as a hitter at the pro level what you need to be successful," he said. "I'm getting more comfortable. Listening to what coaches have told me and watched other hitters at the big league level. I've watched their approach."

Tweaks to his own approach paying off, McCormick has relied on Corpus Christi hitting coach Tim LaMonte to help him add some extra pop to his swing.

"He's helped me out a lot," the right-hander hitter said. "He's got my swing better by going through drills. He helps you drive the ball and stay on the ball so the ball can have some backspin. He will get your swing right, which has made me happy. I appreciate the work he puts in, all the time with the guys. He's done a great job so far."

But neither the added power nor the skyrocketing OBP generated national buzz for McCormick the way his May 6 catch did. His teammates had to give him some slack for all of the attention he received, right?

"Tons," McCormick said. 

Yet he gives one of his fellow outfielders credit for having made the catch possible in the first place.

"What helped me out the most was my center fielder [Ronnie Dawson], he said, 'Fence, fence, fence,'" McCormick recalled. "So I knew exactly where the fence was."

Having studied the scouting report didn't hurt either.

"I knew [Tulsa's] Chris Parmelee liked to hit the ball to right field and he has a good bit of power," McCormick said. "He hits it my way and I run back and hit the warning track."

After securing the ball and robbing Parmelee of the two-run jack, all McCormick had to worry about was the landing. Was it more USA gymnastics phenom Simone Biles or belly flop?

"I landed in a great position," he said. "I landed right on my hands instead of my head, but that's just because I knew where the fence was and I knew when I was going to hit impact."

While Dawson was probably concerned about McCormick's health, he got the last word in after the catch that would make McCormick a viral star.

"Ronnie came over the fence and said, 'The only reason I'm coming over here is to get on ["SportsCenter"],'" McCormick said.

What are teammates for?

Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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