Brandon League, pictured above during his All-Star media session today at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, believes he’s in the clear as far as the imminent birth of their third child. He was prepared to miss the baseball event to witness the more meaningful blessed event, but it looks like he’s going to be able to do both.
My first question to League was about the baby situation. His wife, Sasha, flew out to Phoenix late last week (on a private airplane; some airlines don’t let women that far along in their pregnancies to fly). They had decided long ago to induce labor in Seattle during the All-Star break, back when an All-Star apperance for League wasn’t on their radar. They now are scheduled to induce Wednesday in Seattle, flying back together after Tuesday’s All-Star game. That’s if Sasha holds out that long, of course — and League has his fingers crossed.
“She’s not really having any contractions,” he said. “I think we’re in the clear until Wednesday.”
Just in case, they have the obstetrician they were seeing in Arizona during spring training on call. If Sasha goes into labor today or tomorrow, “We’ll have it here,” League said. “We have everything covered. Everything.”
And he means everything. The Leagues have an ace in the hole.
“Her dad is a doctor, too,” League said. “He could deliver it in the stands if he wanted to.”
League’s father-in-law is a family practitioner by trade, but “he’s done it all. He’s worked in the emergency room. Even if I needed Tommy John (surgery), he could do that.”
The Mariners are hoping that’s not necessary.
League, by the way, said he won’t take paternity leave, which this year for the first time is eligible to new fathers on MLB rosters. They can leave the team for 24 to 72 hours. The Mariners open the second half of the season on Thursday at Safeco Field, facing the Rangers in the first game of a four-game series. Then they depart on a nine-game road trip to Toronto, Boston and New York.
“I’ll throw on Thursday,” he said. “I had the option (to take paternity leave) but I’ll be with them all day Wednesday. My mother-in-law will be there helping out. I’ll be home during the day, then I’m going to the game at night. We have a long road trip coming up, so I’ll make sure I get my time in.”
No one here was glowing more than Michael Pineda, who made sure to soak up the atmosphere as much as he could. Off to his left in the picture above is Mariners bullpen coach Jaime Navarro, who has been a mentor and confidant of Pineda’s since he showed up in Class A Wisconsin in 2008 as an 18-year-old. In a nice gesture, Pineda asked Navarro to accompany him to Phoenix. Pineda was named to the team on Sunday, too late for his family in the Dominican Republic to get a visa for the trip to Phoenix. Navarro said he was happy to cancel his plans (fishing, sightseeing in Seattle) to attend the All-Star Game. Navarro never made an All-Star team in his 12-year career despite some fine seasons.
Pineda, just 22, did it in his first season, and he’s savoring the experience.
“Oh, wow,” Pineda marveled. “I’m feeling very excited. It’s my first All-Star Game. Some of these guys have been in three or four or even more. I’m trying to soak it all in.”
It’s been a remarkable rise for Pineda, who back in March was concerned with surviving the final cut.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “In spring training, I was just trying to make the team. Today I’m at the All-Star Game. I say, ‘Wow. Thank you, God.’ ”
Felix Hernandez, meanwhile, is here as a spectator only, but he was enjoying himself today, too. Hernandez is one of several star pitchers ineligible to participate on Tuesday because they pitched on Sunday. Though he was replaced on the active roster (by Boston’s Jon Lester, who is on the DL and was immediately replaced by Toronto’s Ricky Romero), Hernandez had the option of attending the festivities, and he jumped at it. Last year, when he went on to win the Cy Young Award, Hernandez didn’t make the AL squad. He wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to be part of his second All-Star Game.
“It’s not going to be stange. I’m going to enjoy it,” said Hernandez, who said he’ll be in uniform on the bench tomorrow. “It’s going to be fun.”
Hernandez added, “If you’re here, you want to pitch. But it’s a rule.”
Felix expressed great satisfaction at the achievements of his protege, Pineda.
“I’m very proud of him,” he said. “He’s having a great year. He’s a great guy. Young, but smart. He knows what he’s doing.”
AL manager Ron Washington had a funny comment about Pineda.
“I was messing with him. But he won’t say anything unless Felix says it’s OK,” joked Washington.
Finally, I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of Giants closer Brian Wilson. Why? Just look at him. That’s a look you don’t see every day in a baseball setting. Or any setting, for that matter.
(Or, as several people have pointed out, maybe it’s not Brian Wilson, but actually Joaquin Phoenix).