It Takes a Village…

In Blog, Hustle Podcast by Eric Byrnes

19 years ago yesterday, I was playing a game in Sacramento for the AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s… 

Down by 2 runs, with nobody on and 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, I hit a ball down the right field line that fell in for a hit. I saw the right fielder loaf after the ball so I decided to high tail it into second to attempt to get a double… 

I was OUT.

One of the ultimate baseball sins is to get thrown out on the bases in the last inning when you do not represent the tying or go ahead run…

Knowing that I f*cked up, I wanted to bury my head in the infield dirt. Immediately after, Roy White, a Yankees legend and our hitting, base running and outfield coach, came up to me and sternly said… 

“You f*cked up, Bob wants to see you in his office… NOW.” 

The Bob he was referring to was Bob Geren, our manager in Sacramento. 

When I walked into Bobs office, he berated me for 5 minutes about how dumb of a play it was trying to go for a double in that situation. The only thing I could do was apologize… 

He then said, “Whatever you do, don’t make that same mistake in Cleveland tomorrow night.” 

With a bewildered look on my face, I responded…

“Cleveland??? Who’s playing in Cleveland tomorrow night?”

Bob’s face then lit up with a gigantic smile…

“The A’s are playing and so are you… Congratulations.. You are going to the SHOW. You EARNED it.” 

Not knowing what to do or how to react, I called my parents, my sister and a few of my closest friends… I then went back to my apartment in Sacramento and downed a 40 of Mickeys and watched Seinfeld reruns all night til it was time to go to the airport for my 6am flight… 

When I arrived in Denver on my connection to Cleveland, I randomly ran into my Mom & Sister who happened to be on the same flight… A few hours later, I was outside the security gate at Jacobs Field without an MLB ID to get me into the game… After several failed attempts to reach A’s traveling secretary Micky Morabito and about 30 minutes of pleading with the security guard, he finally let me in after a fan showed him my minor league baseball card… 

When I got into the clubhouse, I had about 20 minutes to meet the coaching staff, players, and fire on a grey Oakland uniform which ironically had the number 22 on it. At about 7:00pm, I got into the dugout and peaked onto the field and into the stands… 

As I watched Jacobs Field fill up with a sell out crowd for over the 400th consecutive time, all I could think was… 

“Holy shit balls… I made it.” 

Then I started having flashbacks of learning how to play catch by firing my tennis ball against the garage and making diving catches off the roof… 

I thought about the epic “strikeout” battles with Tony Castleman & wiffle ball games with the Kavenaugh brothers, Sidensol & Andrew Garcia… 

I thought about my Mom taking me to Malibu Grand Prix for batting practice before games and my Dad tossing me endless BP at the Portola Valley Town Center… 

I thought about my little league coach Tom Sutter, Peninsula Mets coaches Gary Tagliofico & Jerry Berkson, Menlo Park Brewers coaches Jim McAlpine & Dr. Thom, high school coach Chris Bradford, and my college coaches Vince Beringhele and Gary Adams… 

I then thought about all the people in the A’s system that helped me get to the big leagues: Sparky, Tony D, Bob Geren, Dave Hudgens, Ron Plaza and Keith Lippman, just to name a few… 

After a couple minutes of quiet emotional reflection of gratitude, I knew I needed to wake the f*ck up and snap out of it. 

I then did what I did before every game, a FULL SEND sprint to the centerfield wall, only this time I could barely feel my legs’ I was floating… 

When I got back to the dugout I was ready to GO, the same way I was ready to play the game that I have loved since I was 9 years old…

My first at bat, I smoked a base hit up the middle off of All-Star Chuck Finley, just missed a homer my second at bat, lined out to centerfield my 3rd at bat, drilled a single to left in my fourth at bat and got hit by a pitch in my 5th at bat… 

I finished the day 2-4 with a HBP, 2 runs scored, a stolen base and nearly was at the center of a bench clearing brawl because we retaliated after Steve Reed stuck a fastball in my ribs and talked shit afterwards… 

Quite the eventful MLB debut to say the least.

19 years later as I am able to reflect on it, that 24-hour period was somewhat of a microcosm of my life… It was predicated on a culmination of relentless hard work and self belief that involved failures, successes and new experiences to learn and grow from… 

Most importantly, it was a day that celebrated the village of people who helped me get to that point in my life… 

Something we should all do more often… 

-EB