Sophomore infielder David McCabe has joined the ranks of football star Chris Reynolds and star soccer player Michaella Arteta, thriving at Charlotte after not having many options at the next level.
"Charlotte was my only Division I offer, so it wasn't really much of a choice to me. But it was sort of a blessing that I was able to come here," said McCabe, "Everything just fell into place."
Although choosing to become a 49er was for the same reasons as other players, McCabe has had a unique journey in getting to Charlotte.
"I just love the campus, the atmosphere, the city, everything about it. I just thought it was going to be a great place to develop as a baseball player and a person," said McCabe.
The relationship between McCabe and the 49ers goes back to 2013 when Charlotte first played an exhibition game against the Ontario Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are a high school level showcase baseball team based in Ontario, Canada. Every year they make the trek to the United States, playing at different colleges to give their players opportunities to showcase their talent across the nation.
In the fall of 2018, the 49ers hosted a matchup with the Ontario Blue Jays. In this matchup, McCabe shined in front of the 49ers' head baseball coach, Loren Hibbs. After this game, Charlotte offered McCabe a spot on the team, giving him his first and only Division I offer.
McCabe leaped at the opportunity and arrived at the team in the fall of 2019. He moved in one week after Charlotte had brought in their new head baseball coach with now head coach Robert Woodard.
Adjusting to new staff and philosophy
With McCabe's arrival at Charlotte, the team went through a significant philosophical change. The team moved from a very traditional coach with Hibbs into a more analytical style coach in Woodard.
"I was recruited by him [Hibbs] and Bo Rob, but Coach Woodard was announced to get this job, I think a week before I moved into campus, so it was a little bit of a nerve-wracking time, but he's been great, and I've loved playing for him ever since," said McCabe.
The 2022 baseball season saw another coaching transition with long-time hitting coach Bo Robinson leaving the team to coach at NC State. Robinson was firm in his belief of old-school style hitting, with his departure the approach at the plate has seemed to change to be more disciplined when swinging the bat.
McCabe has found a way to thrive through all the changes and prove that he is the type of player every coach wants.
"I think there are still traditional elements in what we do and the training we do, but there are a lot more different things we do. I think it pushes us to challenge ourselves to be better; I think it helps us," said McCabe.
In the young 2022 season, McCabe has made an impact. Having started and played in 12 games so far this year, he is posting a .429 batting average in 42 at-bats. He has also knocked in 11 RBIs, hit three home runs and walked 17 times.
Earlier in the year, McCabe was listed as the No.7 ranked third baseman in the nation by D1 Baseball. As a result, he has significant expectations on his shoulders for the rest of the season.
In 2021 McCabe was named to the Conference USA(C-USA) All-Academic team and was on his way to the All-Conference team but was held back due to injury, holding him to just starting in only 34 games last season. In 2020 McCabe was named as a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American.
What makes Big Maple special
The 49ers star, nicknamed Big Maple, is defined as the type of player who does all the little things that are taken for granted perfectly. He is every coach's dream, not just as a player but as a person.
"David is as complete of a player and person that I have ever coached. In my 12 years of experience coaching Division I baseball, I've been very fortunate to coach many players with that talent or makeup piece. But he is that rare combination of elite talent and elite makeup,' said Woodard. "David, the person, is even more special than David, the player, and as a coach, that is everything you could ask for."
Whether he is showing up early to practice or just being a humble star more focused on seeing the team succeed, McCabe is ready to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed. He is vocal with his teammates when necessary and can provide the critical hit when needed. Even his presence and discipline show his determination to improve.
McCabe's new home
The Canadian native has found Charlotte to be an exceptional place for him, finding it to be a new home and being able to thrive and be a part of a very special 49ers baseball program.
"It's been great. Charlotte almost feels like my first home now. I have not been able to go home the last couple of years due to COVID and things like that. This team is like my second family, and I'm really grateful for every second I get to spend here," said McCabe.