Receiving a promotion in any job field is typically seen as a big deal and an event worth celebrating. For baseball players, the initial call-up to Major League Baseball is a promotion unlike any they have experienced before and is unlike any emotion that most fully understand.
Dedicating decades of one’s life, the amount of practices, workouts and games in stadiums ranging from high school fields to multi-layered ballparks in small towns and big cities across the United States, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe is innumerable.
The number of hours is inconceivable, but the moment a manager and the coaching staff brings a player into their office with the news of their first promotion to the big leagues is one that encapsulates the entire journey for these young men.
On the 2018 Baysox roster, three players and a coach have experienced the range of emotions that come with earning a spot on a MLB roster and then seeing action. Here are their stories:
Kennie Steenstra, Pitching Coach
“We had a day game. I was playing in Des Moines, Iowa, for about the fourth straight year in Triple A with the Cubs. It was May 19, 1998. I was living with a host family at the time and I went back (home) and got a phone call from our manager. He said to come back to the park because I was going to Wrigley Field to meet the team the next day. I was very excited. It was strange going to the clubhouse and packing up with no players there. That’s different than what most players imagine it to be. I packed up, drove to Chicago that night and was put on the roster the next day.
“Any time you can make it to the Major Leagues, it’s a good day. I called the wife, called my mom and dad and everyone was excited and thrilled. I had played for about six years without making it to the big leagues. I had put in a lot of time and work and doubts. To have it happen was a chance of a lifetime and a day of a lifetime.
“It’s funny because I grew up a Cardinals fan, so being drafted by the Cubs was a bit of a shock. Wrigley Field is an incredible ballpark and an incredible atmosphere. To be able to go there and be a player and walk into the clubhouse was an incredible moment. I sat in the bullpen the first day. I had always been a starter, so I had never pitched out of the bullpen. I was able to pitch the next day. I came in against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Todd Hollingsworth was my first batter and I struck him out. I had a little bit of everything in that inning. I didn’t give up a run, but I gave up a hit, a stolen base. I tried to check off as many boxes as possible, but got out of it without giving up a run.”
For Steenstra, he’s had the honor of getting the call and also giving the call to young players.
“If it’s a guy’s first time, they’re kind of shocked. You see the joy of all the hard work they’ve put in over the years come to fruition. It’s a great moment for that person, getting to compete in the big leagues. I was here when Manny (Machado) got called up. We were in Altoona at the time. We called him in and told him. It was a big shock at the time because he had played shortstop here. He got a little work in at third base for a couple days, but we got the call saying that you’re going to tell him that he’s going up to the big leagues to stay. He was very surprised and very shocked, but we were very happy for him. He was very humble and very grateful at that point.”
Austin Hays, Outfielder
“It was a chaotic day. I had gotten the call from (Baysox Manager Gary Kendall) and I was at my host family’s house. My girlfriend was in town, so she was the first person that heard because the phone was on speaker. The first person I called was my mom. That phone call was happy and anxious, but I had to tell her not to tell anyone or post anything on social media because I had to get to the field to sign the papers.
“It’s crazy. When you think about getting the call-up, you think about the glamor and the fashion of it, but you don’t realize all the chaotic stuff that goes into getting to a certain point in a certain amount of time to sign a paper that says you can play. I don’t know if I’ve ever had another feeling like I’ve had when Gary had told me that I was going.”
Audry Perez, Catcher
“The last day in Triple-A (2013), we lost the game. My manager told me that if Omaha wins today, you’re going to the big leagues. If they lose, you need to stay here because the (Memphis Redbirds are) going to the playoffs. I was happy because my team could have gone to the playoffs, but I would’ve gone to the big leagues if they lost. I didn’t know what was going on because Tony Cruz, the backup for Yadier Molina, had a stress fracture. I heard Omaha won and I was like ‘wow!’ I called my mother and my father and I told them that I was going to the Big Leagues. My father didn’t say anything. He was crying and my family was really happy.
“It was amazing because there was Yadier Molina, (Third Base Coach) Benjie Molina and (Manager) Mike Matheny-three catchers that have a lot of time in the big leagues. When I went outside and saw (Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati), I was like “Oh my God!” I hadn’t seen so many people in a stadium. I played winter ball in the Dominican Republic and I know it’s a lot of people, but it’s not the same. When I went to the big leagues, I had never seen so many people in one stadium.
“It was a good experience for me because I learned a lot from Yadier Molina, who I knew from Spring Training. Benjie Molina helped me out a lot, talking to me about good communication because the catcher is the captain or the teacher of the team. Mike Matheny told me I was in the game. I was in the bullpen and someone picked me up with a golf cart, but I forgot everything: my shinguards, my chest protector, everything. Yadier Molina said ‘take my stuff.’ I put his stuff on, caught the first pitch and the nerves were gone. Ok, I am comfortable. This is baseball.”
Corban Joseph, Infielder
“We were in the middle of a doubleheader and Dave Miley, my manager at the time with the (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) Yankees, brought me in after finishing the first game. He sat me down and was acting frustrated with a play during the game. I was confused. I was trying to follow him, but at the end of it, they were all congratulating me and told me I was going to the big leagues. It was an awesome day. I had called my parents and my brother and my wife. I told them all about it and was up to the show that next morning. It was a lot of emotion.
“It’s a special moment. You’re excited. You’re nervous. You’re emotional. This is something you’ve dreamed of as a kid and something that’s very special. You aren’t trained on how to react to it. It’s something that a lot of people don’t get to experience, so it was a moment where you step back and remember all the hard work that you put in to get to where you’re at today, and all the people that have helped you. I was extremely humbled and was very excited.
“There was so much to take in and I was trying to relax a little bit. I got to watch the games, fully dressed out in the dugout and ready to pinch-hit or whatever I could do to help the team win. There were lots of empty seats because it wasn’t a big game, but I’ll never forget the intensity of the fans. It was a really cool experience.
“On the road in Cleveland was a lot of fun. I was nervous because I debuted at first base and I had only a couple games or so at first base in my minor league career up to that point. I wasn’t really comfortable over there, but I ended up having a really good game. I faced (Justin) Masterson, who was nasty at that time. I remember thinking that I’d never get a hit in the big leagues, but I (also) played in the second game of that doubleheader. I got my hit off of Trevor Bauer. My parents, my wife and my mother and father-in-law were there, so it was a really cool moment to share with them.”
By Robby Veronesi / Bowie Baysox