CSSA PLAYER PROFILE - MIKE McFARLAND
If the CSSA ever invites a paratrooper to descend from the skies carrying the stars and stripes before a championship game, perhaps we can ask for Mike McFarland. I’m not sure parachuting is akin to riding a bike, and it has been over fifty years since he’s floated from the sky, but he has the expertise. He spent two years of Airborne training in Panama with the 8th Special Forces of the U.S. Army.
Born in Canton, GA, he rarely strayed far from home beyond his military commitment. His early exposure to baseball was pitching and playing infield for a Little League team. After that, he didn’t take part in organized sports for many years.
Mike grew up with a desire and need to be independent and succeed on his own. He began working at 12 as a caddy at the Canton Golf Club. At age fourteen, he accepted his second job at Etowah Bank near his home as a janitor. Twenty-four months passed, then he worked for Baker Flower Shop. He was soon asked to help at Baker’s Funeral Home, which also provided ambulance service, since there was no EMS in the county at the time. Because of the demands of this work, his employer asked him to move into an apartment at the funeral home, where he lived his last two years of High School.
He kept working on his baseball interest by playing on weekends against Industrial teams throughout North Georgia.
In 1966, shortly after high school graduation, he married Dianne, his high school sweetheart. A short breath later, the Army called him to duty.
Upon his return to civilian life, he began a long career in the communications industry. This started with Western Electric, subsequently to become AT&T. He settled into multiple assignments in an IT environment, surviving the divestiture of AT&T. He then worked for Lucent Technologies, then returned to AT&T where he retired after 32 years on a Friday and then started work with IBM on the following Monday, where he worked another 14 plus years. His career was always in the technology sectors, including management stints in Disaster Recovery and an IT support group.
But he and Dianne spent a significant amount of time watching their daughter Michele, who was a much better athlete than Mike ever was, and that’s impressive. She was a three-sport letterman, where she played softball, basketball, and track. Michele excelled at softball at Cherokee High School, then at Kennesaw State University (KSU) for four years. She was an MVP shortstop at Cherokee High and then KSU. Upon gaining her BS degree from KSU, she became an assistant coach with KSU to allow her to complete her Master’s degree.
Today, Dianne and Mike are the proud grandparents of five grandchildren, with two who display the athletic gene passed down to them. One granddaughter is active in travel softball, while a grandson competes on a travel baseball team. Future CSSA players? Far too soon, but certainly a possibility.
In 1996, after a softball game where Mike watched his daughter play, the coach mentioned a new league for mature guys, which had recently formed at Hobgood Park. Mike joined the crew of Arnold Fowler, Lowell Lawson, Les Taylor, Bill King and Jerry King, and has never considered stopping. Back then, he even became a part of a senior basketball league started by Lowell Lawson.
Softball has remained his recreational love. Over the past twenty-five years, he’s played second base, short-field, and the outfield. John Perkins got him started in tournament ball and Mike stuck with it for fifteen years. He enjoyed playing on Ray McClure’s teams, where he earned two tournament All-American selections, and several all-tournament MVP awards.
On one occasion, Mike was a member of Ray’s team, which played in a national tournament in Ft. Myers, FL, sponsored by the Softball Players Association (SPA). Twenty-four teams competed in the 60+ division, where Mike and his teammates emerged victorious in every game, not a single loss throughout the competition!
Tournament play can be grueling with long uninterrupted hours and no breaks between games. Mike recalls one incident where he glanced over at the right-center fielder and noticed the player had secreted a hot dog in his sock and munched on the protein treat between batters. That only made Mike’s stomach growl even louder!
He is most proud of his years in the National and American Leagues, where he earned batting titles in each of his decades of play, 50s, 60s, and 70s, an amazing feat, and a record unlikely to be matched or surpassed.
He most admired former manager Barney Greene, who inspired him in many ways. Barney’s passion for softball was legendary with a strong devotion to his players, who always came first. While Barney was gravely ill in the hospital, he asked Tom Ballard and Mike to coach the team for him. That was vintage Barney, more concerned for his players than himself. Tom and Mike coached the team through a successful tournament season, but the team just wasn’t the same to them without Barney.
Pleasant memories of family and softball fill Mike’s life, and he and his wife just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary! Everyone appreciates a player like Mike: humble, hard-working, and supportive of his team. It seems he’s quiet in the background, but you still might see him parachute into second base to highlight a special event, just for old-time’s sake.
Written by Marty Aftewicz