“I was wild as all get out. I might strike out 10, but I would walk 15 or 16.” – Tim McGuire
By RANDY KINDRED
June 25, 1986
BLOOMINGTON, IL – The numbers don’t lie. A 22-3 record, 1.01 earned run average, 175 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 151 innings.
Without question, they add up to the best start of Tim McGuire’s softball pitching career. That, he says, is what worries him.
“The book on me is I usually throw better in July and August (than May and June),” the Bloomington Beer Nuts right-hander told a reporter at O’Neil Park, his home away from home.
“I hope that’s true again, but I get visions sometimes of it being the opposite this year.”
The tone of McGuire’s voice was serious enough, but his slight grin gave him away: This was a worried man.
Granted, thoughts of late-season decline may have crossed McGuire’s mind. But given the way he’s throwing the ball, they must be difficult to take seriously.
The 29-year-old McGuire, a Fairbury resident in his sixth year with Beer Nuts, cited several reasons for a start which has included 12 shutouts and two no-hitters.
The most important, experience and control, have been gained through 10 years of throwing his rise ball, drop ball and changeup.
Ironically, when the Forrest native started pitching with a 4-H team at age 19, his inexperience was surpassed only by his lack of control.
“I was wild as all get out,” McGuire recalled with a laugh. “I might strike out 10, but I would walk 15 or 16.”
This year, McGuire has averaged eight strikeouts and less than one walk per game.
such control had his record at 18-2 after 20 games, well ahead of the 14-6 mark he had at the same juncture last year against lesser competition.
Should it continue the rest of the season, McGuire appears destined to reach his preseason goals of 40 victories and fewer than 10 defeats.
“Walks just kill you in fastpitch softball,” said McGuire, who hopes to improve upon his 39-11, 38-17 and 38-16 records of the past three years. “Since the games are so low-scoring, they really come back to haunt you.”
Runs can indeed be hard to come by in major-caliber fastpitch games.
McGuire considers himself fortunate “because I know I’m going to get three or four runs a game. I can relax a little out there,” he said.
Perhaps, but even McGuire has been victimized by the pitching-and-defense nature of the sport. Beer Nuts was shut out in two of this losses and scored one run in the other.
Soon after graduating from Eureka College, where he played basketball four years and golf for three, the 6-foot-2 McGuire ballooned to over 250 pounds.
He performed at that weight until three years ago when he used a strict diet and increased exercise to lose 42 pounds.
“The hardest thing I ever did,” he said.
McGuire, who’s a teacher, coach and athletic director at Pontiac Junior High School, has worked hard to keep the weight off. He has strengthened the 210 pounds that are left by lifting weights in the offseason.
Such training is a part of what McGuire said has become “an eight-to-10 month (per year) commitment” to softball.
That ratio has grown steadily in the six years since McGuire left ASA Class A team, Pontiac Stone, for the Beer Nuts.
“I had heard about guys like Bill Kennedy (Bloomington Hearts) and David Scott (Decatur Pride),” he said. “I just wanted to see how far I could go.”
McGuire has gone quite a ways, in part, he says, because of advice given him by veteran teammate Graham Arnold.
Still, he doesn’t profess to be in the same class with nationally-known hurlers “like Scott and Peter Finn.”
“I’m like a kid in a candy store watching those guys,” he said. “I’m always looking for something I can pick up from them.”
It must be working. Look at the numbers.