UPDATE!! (or should i say: “This just in….”) James Paxton also won his second start, pitching 6 scoreless innings a week later in St. Louis against the playoff-bound Cardinals! He also had to bat for the first time since he was 13. Read about the game and what happened during one of his at-bats in this article from the Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.com/html/mariners/2021826943_mariners15xml.html
(and further, Paxton, who attended his grandfather’s funeral last weekend, is now 3-0…just threw 7 shutout innings Tuesday night….this is turning into a storybook saga)
There we were at the ballpark on a soft Saturday evening in Seattle – tickets ordered months ago – with no expectation of anything beyond the mundane from the likes of the anonymous Tampa Bay Rays and the woeful, local Mariners. Just to soak in the pleasures of idyllic Safeco Field, heckle the umps and stretch in the 7th inning would be good enough.
We should have known better. It’s baseball, after all. As the celebrated philosopher Yogi Berra put it so well: “There’s one word that describes baseball: you just never know.” We saw something memorable.
His first big league pitch was a strike. From there, Paxton was nearly flawless, coolly deposing of the Rays for six solid innings, giving up four hits, one earned run, and striking out three, with but a single walk. Poise personified. And for a change, the banjo hitters from Seattle actually scored some runs. The 24-year old ‘lad’ from Ladner, punctuating his inspiring ascent from the Jupiter Hammerheads to the Clinton LumberKings to the majors, earned the victory.
Adding to the occasion was a huge contingent of hometown fans, friends and family, who made the trip to Seattle for the big game. You couldn’t avoid them. The guy at the urinal next to me said he was Paxton’s “best buddy” back in Ladner. A bit later, I noticed two fans wearing Mariner jerseys with Paxton on the back. They turned out to be his uncle and the pitcher’s brother Tom (not the folksinger). Everyone was pumped.
As he finished his on-field interviews at the end of the game, during which he talked poignantly about his grandfather, the hero of the day waved to the Ladner fans, who were still raising a ruckus out along the left field line. That produced an even louder roar. Wanting to savour every moment, the Ladner fans wouldn’t leave. They keep cheering, high-fiving each other and brandishing their Pax-Man signs, until ushers finally shooed them out of the darkening, otherwise empty park.
No matter how James Paxton’s career proceeds from here, he will always have that magical first start. It was a thrill to be there.