"People always ask me how I do that, and if it's hard," Macnamara said. "They wonder if I have to think about it as it's happening. This is my 13th year playing baseball. By now I just do it. I don't have to think about it."
Macnamara was born with Poland syndrome. His right hand is deformed, with little more than hints of a thumb and one other finger.
He catches balls with his left hand. Throws 'em with it, too. In between comes the transfer, so simple now for Macnamara but quite the conversation piece for witnesses.
Quickly. The name of which former major leaguer is bouncing around in your head? It should be Jim Abbott's.
Abbott, who had even less of a right arm than Macnamara, pitched for 10 seasons in the majors. Though his career statistics show an 87-108 record, in 1991 he went 18-11 with a 2.89 earned run average for the California Angels and finished third in Cy Young voting for the American League.
The details are hazy, but Macnamara, at roughly age 6, just when he was getting started with T-ball, recalls meeting Abbott at a special event in Philly.
"I can't remember anything he said to me," Macnamara noted. "But I do know I kept thinking about how cool he was. I have some signed items, too."
Macnamara has played one other sport during his time at Conwell-Egan and a strong guess of soccer would be a correct one. In fact, he was a starting midfielder.
In baseball, John played 3 years of junior varsity before realizing his dream of making it onto the big squad. He has spent most of the season serving as a courtesy runner for pitchers or catchers, but he recently saw regular action in non-league games vs. Father Judge and Neshaminy.
The start vs. LC was part of Senior Day festivities, and Macnamara was joined by little-used classmates Dan Hoffmire and Gio Ruiz.
Macnamara, in the No. 2 hole, batted three times in his four-inning stint. Two strikeouts sandwiched an eight-pitch at-bat that concluded with a popup to second. Macnamara battled hard after missing a sac-bunt attempt on the first pitch, and he was on Pat Duggan's deliveries because two of the foul balls went straight back.
"It would have been nice to get a hit," said Macnamara, who's 0-for-6 with two walks. "I really tried to get my swing on top of the ball. Still popped it up."
Of the doubleplay, Macnamara said, "It wasn't a rough play. Really. The runner was well off the base, so it was just a matter of making the transfer and throwing it over there. I just had to make sure to get the throw over the runner because he was in my line [of vision]."
In the fourth inning, with a runner on first, a grounder was hit to Tom Kearney, the shortstop. Macnamara took Kearney's toss barehanded, but could only send a late, looping throw to first after needing time to set himself.
Understandable. He's probably a natural righthander.
"I kick a soccer ball rightfooted," he said. "I write lefthanded, because I have to, but I've done some reading on this stuff. They say you can tell what you are by which side of your mouth you use while chewing. For me that's the right side. So, I guess I'm supposed to be righthanded."
While Macnamara is able to grip the bat with both hands, he noted, "I'm starting to let go with my right hand maybe halfway through the swing. So, I get all the sensation in my left hand and there can be lots of stinging. Of course, I don't mind at all."
Andrew Ellis, C-E's first-year coach, gushed when speaking about Macnamara.
"He's probably the nicest kid I've met. Ever," he said. "We have a very good second baseman in Mike Petrizzi, so it's tough to get John playing time. But anything I ask him to do, he does. No complaints.
"He deserved to make that doubleplay. He deserves the world. What a great role model for Conwell-Egan baseball."
Ellis then smiled and added, "I want him back as my assistant coach in 4 years."
It sounds as if that could be arranged, though Macnamara, a Langhorne resident, is a strong student (4.0 GPA, top-20 ranking) and hopes his stint at Penn State (main campus) will lead him to a career in aerospace engineering.
"Coach has done a great job," Macnamara said. "Already, he's one of the most committed coaches in our school. He wants all of us to succeed and he's always calling people to try to get us noticed by colleges."
Noticed . . . and appreciated. Thursday, especially, that was John Macnamara's lot in baseball life.
"I've always known I've been different from the other players, of course," he said. "But I've never felt different. I just come out to play, like everyone else, and I'll do whatever I'm asked to try to help us win.
"Going back to when I was very little, my dad [John] has given me all the support I could possibly want - we always worked on the glove transfer - and I've always appreciated that. He was out of town and wasn't able to make it today, but my mom [Maryann] was here, so that was nice."
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