By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Rocky McCord thought about leaving, and you couldn't blame him.
He had pitched all of 2⅔ innings last baseball season for Auburn, the Kansas City Royals had nonetheless drafted him and there he was in Florida for a physical to begin his pro career.
"I had texted him and wished him luck," Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway remembered.
McCord responded, saying he wasn't sure he'd sign, that he was considering a return to Auburn.
"That's when I really got involved, asking him to wait until I could get a good pitching coach," Golloway said.
New pitching coach Tom Holliday and McCord would talk. A winter workout later, McCord is penciled in as a starter in Auburn's pitching rotation as the Tigers work toward their season-opener against Binghamton on Feb. 13.
"Coach Golloway called me when I was going through the draft, and I was kind of shocked," McCord said. "He said I was a good teammate and fit in well, and that I could help Auburn get back on the right track. I thought, 'I threw two innings last year, why would you want be back?' I told him I'd think about it.
"He gave me Coach Holliday's number, so I called him and I was impressed what he told me. He said he had heard about my talent, and felt like as far as the pros go, it wasn't smart to go in after being beaten up when I wasn't at my best. After I thought about it, I agreed with him. As much as I'd like to start my pro career, it wouldn't be best for me to go in with the season that I had."
McCord has been drafted twice, by Minnesota after high school, by Kansas City after his junior season at Auburn in which he appeared in five games. Kansas City didn't care.
"I felt like I hadn't pitched much here, so I was ready to go," McCord said. "But then Auburn wanted me back."
McCord has a 2-1 record and a 4.17 ERA in his three seasons. Golloway says McCord's pitches are "electric." Holliday had convinced McCord to give it another try.
"I know how it feels to be moving backwards. I feel like we're moving in a different direction than that," McCord said.
Golloway says he's rooting for McCord.
"For him to come back really speaks volumes about the direction that we're going," Golloway said. "For Rocky to come back, I find myself on the emotional side of things that I'm really pulling for him."
Golloway said he told McCord that "'if anybody can get you going in college it's Tom Holliday. Give him an opportunity.'
"Here's a young man who made a statement. He didn't want to go out and on a team that went 28-28, and that speaks volumes to his character."