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For Rays’ Shane McClanahan, father knew best

USF product said hard coaching as a kid made him the intense, competitive pitcher he is today.
It hasn't taken Shane McClanahan long to reach the majors, a drive he can attribute to his dad molding him through the years.
It hasn't taken Shane McClanahan long to reach the majors, a drive he can attribute to his dad molding him through the years. [ MARK J. TERRILL | Associated Press ]
Published May 18

Shane McClanahan swears he’s not always that serious, intense, fiercely competitive guy that fans see on the mound for the Rays every fifth or sixth day, and teammates see before and after games.

That there’s a relaxed side to him, similar to how as a minor-leaguer in his first big-league camp in 2020 he’d tweet (from his @Sugar_ShaneM account) and talk loudly about the contestants on The Bachelor and joke with reporters about his, and their, basketball skills, or lack thereof.

But there’s a reason McClanahan is who he is when he has the baseball in his left hand. It goes back to his father, James “Clancy” McClanahan.

“He coached me pretty much my whole life until high school,” McClanahan said. “He was very hard on me. Always the first to go give high-fives to other kids and make them feel great. But always so hard on me.

“And I think that’s molded me to be so competitive, to be honest with you. I’m not the same pitcher on the mound that I am off the field. I feel like I’m a pretty laid-back, easy-going guy. But I get that competitiveness on the mound from my dad. He just kind of built it up in me. Just made me want to be better. So we didn’t have to go home in different cars after the game.”

That said, McClanahan, 24, made clear they have a good relationship, joking how he likes “to bust his chops” by calling him James rather than his preferred nickname, even having a Christmas gift watch inscribed that way. (He also notes that while Clancy is a “a very loud man” he would rather not do interviews, preferring to let Shane handle the spotlight.)

Shane McClanahan, left, acts like he is helping to interview fellow Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough (in front on right) as Yarbrough talks with reporters Jan. 24, 2020.
Shane McClanahan, left, acts like he is helping to interview fellow Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough (in front on right) as Yarbrough talks with reporters Jan. 24, 2020. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]

When McClanahan made his historic appearance at San Diego’s Petco Park in October — the first big-leaguer to debut in the postseason — Clancy, and Shane’s mom, Lisa, got to share in the special moment.

And the kidding afterward.

McClanahan, who took over with two outs in the ninth inning of the lopsided loss to the Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, allowed a single and a walk before getting his first — and the inning’s last — out.

“My dad made me laugh a little bit,” McClanahan said the next day. “He goes, ‘3-2 walk, eh?’ Good to talk to you, too, Dad.”

McClanahan was a multi-sport athlete growing up, really liking soccer, where he played goalie, doing most things right-handed (except golfing, swinging a bat, and, obviously, pitching).

But baseball was in is blood, from his father, who played in high school but was “more of a football guy;” his grandfather, who was a lefty pitcher in his school days; and uncle Tim Hagemann, who pitched two seasons at the low end of the Giants’ minor-league system. (”His baseball card looks like Napoleon Dynamite,” McClanahan said.)

Those lofty standards from his father shaped McClanahan.

He starred at Cape Coral High following the family’s move from Baltimore to southwest Florida and decided to play in college rather than sign with the Mets.

USF’s Shane McClanahan delivers against Florida, which started former Alonso High standout Alex Faedo in a 12-inning win.
USF’s Shane McClanahan delivers against Florida, which started former Alonso High standout Alex Faedo in a 12-inning win.

At USF — after he de-committed from Charleston Southern and passed on offers from Miami and Florida Gulf Coast — he dealt with Tommy John surgery and rehab after the elbow that bothered him a bit in high school blew out a couple weeks into his first practices with the Bulls.

He zoomed through two seasons in the Rays’ minor-league system after getting $2.23 million as a 2018 first-round pick (31st overall), and now he takes each big-league start as a challenge to get better, having gone 1-0, 4.67 through four.

“He just had high expectations for me,” McClanahan said. “I think all dads have those expectations for their kid.

“I have high expectations for myself, too. You’ve got to find that line of being too hard on yourself and not being too critical. I think it’s good to have high expectations. It makes you work hard to achieve those. If you have low expectations, you can get complacent and not work.

“So I think it all ties back in with him wanting the best for me, and coaching me hard.”

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