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Inspiration and Faith Drive McFadden to Bigger Baseball Aspirations

by Brad Muller

By now, you probably have heard about South Carolina Baseball’s bullpen catcher, Meredith McFadden, who is the first female to hold the position on a power five conference team. If you haven’t, click here to get caught up and then come back. Being a pioneer in college sports is just part of her story. McFadden has plans beyond Gamecock Baseball and has a special source of inspiration to never give up on her dreams.

“People tell me I wear my heart on my sleeve,” McFadden said. “I put my all into everything I do. I give my all to this program, even though it may not show up on a stat sheet, I love this program, and I’m giving everything to do it. I love this game. This is where my heart is.”

McFadden has several tattoos, some of which are simple reminders to be kind to others. Perhaps one of the most special tattoos is on her right forearm and portrays a nail over home plate, and the point where the two images intersect forms a cross.

“It’s for one of my past coaches (Richie Grayum), who passed away a few years ago,” McFadden said of her former Little League and middle school coach who died from cancer in 2020. “He was the dad of one my best friends that I grew up playing baseball with. The home plate is for baseball. I’m always behind the plate. There is the nail that goes through it. It’s for the coach who would always tell me I’m tough as nails. He was a very influential coach for me. He was one of the first coaches to treat me like a baseball player instead of a girl that was on his team. Some coaches before that would hit the balls softer to me, but he would just smack it right at me! I loved every single minute of it because I knew he loved me as a baseball player and didn’t want to treat me differently.

“It also makes a cross because my faith is very important to me.”

Meredith McFadden
“I definitely could see that I am (a role model). I’ve had little girls and families coming up to me before games and calling out my name. That’s pretty cool.”
Meredith McFadden  . 

Grayum played collegiately at Mississippi State, and McFadden was able to travel there with the Gamecocks earlier this season and had the opportunity to meet up with one of her former coach’s close friends who just happened to be the bus driver for South Carolina that weekend.

“That meant so much to me to be able to connect with him that way,” McFadden said.

While many of today’s high school and college baseball players look up to current Major Leaguers, McFadden is an old soul when it comes to her favorite.

“My favorite player is probably Hank Aaron,” McFadden said with a smile. “My number out on the field is usually 44, after Hank Aaron. He is such a cool guy to look up to.”

McFadden’s work ethic and determination certainly make her a role model, especially to youngsters, and she doesn’t shy away from carrying that load.

“I didn’t think I would become famous,” McFadden said. “I knew I would cause some attention because USC is a huge baseball school. This is a huge step in women’s baseball in accepting a girl into this position at an SEC school. I knew it would be big for women in baseball, but I didn’t think it would have the reach that it does.

“I definitely could see that I am (a role model). I’ve had little girls and families coming up to me before games and calling out my name. That’s pretty cool because back home when I was growing up, I was the only girl that I knew of that played baseball. Expanding that community is really cool.”

Her face lights up when she is talking about baseball. As hard as she works for her position, you can sense the great joy she has in being able to play the game.

While she was a successful high school baseball player on a team otherwise filled with boys, McFadden doesn’t want her baseball career to end solely as the bullpen catcher for the Gamecocks. Last summer, she tried out for the USA Baseball Women’s National Team.

“That’s a family that I have grown to love,” McFadden said. “Growing up as a young girl in baseball, I didn’t even know that existed. I was able to participate in some of their development camps for youth girls baseball ever since I was twelve years old, participating all the way up until I was 18. I traveled the country with players and coaches for that team.

“This past summer, I was able to try out for the USA Baseball Women’s National Team. I made the top-40 trials roster, which was very exciting for me because that is something I worked for my whole life. That’s the end goal for me; to play for the Women’s National Team. I didn’t make the top-20 final roster, but there is a tryout every single year. I’ll be out there with them trying out over the summer. That’s the beauty of being here. I get that year-long training at this high-level facility. There are all these great resources for me to use here to train and get ready for those tryouts. That’s the ultimate goal for me; to be able to represent the USA on that stage.”

As she continues to do her job for the Gamecocks, she knows she is supported by her family and teammates and hopes South Carolina can stay strong in the last month of the regular season and make a long run in the postseason.

“That would be a dream come true,” McFadden said. “I grew up being a huge Gamecock fan and watching the (College World Series Champion) teams in 2010 and 2011. Being a part of it is something you dream of.”

  • Meredith McFadden is First Female Bullpen Catcher at Power Five School (Click on the + to the right) Toggle content

    Bullpen Catcher for Gamecock Baseball Is a Pioneer

    There’s a neat feel-good movie script that is writing itself in the South Carolina Baseball bullpen. Sophomore Meredith McFadden is the Gamecocks’ bullpen catcher, and she is the first female to hold such a spot at an NCAA Division One Power Five Conference school.

    For the South Carolina coaching staff, gender doesn’t matter. Ability does.

    “The role of that position is very important for us,” said South Carolina head coach Mark Kingston. “You want it to be someone who is trustworthy. You want it to be someone who is talented enough to handle our type of pitching staff, which is extremely talented. You want it to be someone who is mature because coach (Justin) Parker is going to ask her, what did you think about that guy? Or, how is his curve ball today? Did he have control? You want it to be someone whom you respect their opinion, and Meredith is all of those things. Her role for us is important because every pitch she catches down there is one less that Cole Messina has to catch, which keeps him fresher for the games. That’s a really important role for a team. We’re happy to have her. She does a great job.”

    McFadden’s love for baseball came at an early age, and while other girls played softball, she couldn’t get away from the baseball diamond.

    “I just love baseball,” said McFadden, who is studying exercise science. “Everything about it; the people, the culture, and being able to be outside all day, every day. I love it.

    “I started playing Little League when I was four years old because my older brother played. I grew up going to the field with him. I was friends with all of his teammates and their younger siblings. We just fell into baseball together. I found that’s where my heart was. I loved being on the field with the guys. It’s nothing against softball. This is just where I felt myself going.”

    McFadden started catching when she was around five or six years old. As she got older, she decided there was no reason to stop, and she tried out for the team at Olympic High School in Charlotte.

    “I was lucky going into high school because a lot of those guys I played with in high school, I played with ever since I was young,” McFadden said. “They knew me as a baseball player first. That was cool in not having to work to earn an entire team’s trust. I already had a lot of guys supporting me.”

    Due to several coaching changes throughout her high school career, she would have to prove herself year after year to each new staff.

    “It definitely made me work harder, and it made me a better baseball player because I had to work for every single bit of it,” McFadden said. “I played all four years of my high school career. I caught some and played some second base.”

    When she came to college, she didn’t want baseball to end. She grew up as a Gamecock fan, and when one of her high school seasons was taken away due to the COVID pandemic, she started thinking ahead of how she could be a part of the program at South Carolina, whether it was as a manager or helping out with statistics. She eventually discovered that the Gamecocks had student bullpen catchers and reached out to the coaching staff. The position was already filled during her freshman year at South Carolina, but last summer, she received a message from the baseball staff to see if she was still interested. She nailed the tryout, and the rest is history.

    “Before I came here, there was definitely some word that got around the team,” McFadden said. “When I got here, they were telling me some things about my baseball history. So, I was like, oh wow, y’all have done your research! I think they were excited to see if I was legit or not, or if I was just doing it for show.

    “The first guy I caught here was (junior) Jack Mahoney. The first pitch, I could tell he was a little worried. They don’t want me getting hurt, and they don’t want to just put anybody back there. Once I stood up to that first pitch, and caught it like everybody else, they settled down a bit. I feel like the trust just skyrocketed from there. I think I proved I could be in the same space with these guys.”

    Getting to catch all of South Carolina’s pitchers makes each day different, and there were some mental challenges at first.

    “Probably earning the trust from the guys, especially being a girl in this job,” McFadden said. “The guys have to trust their catcher. I don’t want them to have to let up when they’re throwing their pitches. I want them to get their best reps in. My only goal is for them to trust me, and building that trust is really important.

    “(The best part is) Being able to work with these high-level pitchers and being able to help our guys coming back from injuries. Just being a part of this team and having some sort of small role in our big wins, I love it. We have so many great pitchers here that I love catching.”

    “It’s awesome with what she has been able to do for us,” said sophomore pitcher Eli Jones. “She is a big help every day. She tells us what she sees, and that gives us a lot of great feedback to help us improve.”

    While she’s an important part of the team, there are some limitations as she can’t share the same locker room with the rest of the team to enjoy some of the off the field connections that teammates make in that environment. Still, she feels accepted.

    “I love the family. These guys are amazing. The staff, the coaches, and every single person that is part of Gamecock Baseball is amazing. Just being able to call Founders Park my home every day, I love it!”

    Throughout McFadden’s career, her parents, Heather and Mike, have been supportive of all her efforts, and she still has more baseball dreams ahead of her. In the meantime, McFadden’s determination sends a strong message to anyone who has doubt when chasing a childhood dream.

    “I always tell girls who come here and say they play baseball to just keep playing!” McFadden said. “I didn’t have enough people telling me to keep playing. It’s simple. Just keep playing.”