April 4, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Brandon Maurer hopes to make his big-league debut on time
Just in case Brandon Maurer didn’t have enough on his mind today, he got to wake up to a nice bit of rain pounding the pavement outside the team hotel in nearby San Francisco. They finally have the tarp off the field here in Oakland ahead of the scheduled 12:37 p.m. PT start, but some threatening skies still loom so let’s hope for the best.
Maurer arrived on the second team bus at 10:30 a.m. and strolled into the clubhouse wearing a gray travel suit — since the team flies on to Chicago immediately after today’s game. I’ve never seen Maurer in a suit before and am told he’s the laid back Califonia surfer type so I wonder whether he just bought it after making the team. I’d ask him, but most starters don’t like to talk before games since they have other stuff on their minds and it would be a serious breach of baseball etiquette for me to even try with a raw rookie about to make his debut.
But I did come across Maurer yesterday as I was walking up Powell Street to my hotel in the Nob Hill section of San Francisco. The team hotel is at the bottom of the hill in Union Square and we crossed paths. I asked Maurer whether he’d been visiting Chinatown — which is up the hill and just to the right down some side streets — and he told me he and his parents had been walking all over town.
It’s been that kind of trip for Maurer, who is experiencing sights and sounds of new things every day.
“It’s been everything I could think of and more,” Maurer said. “My expectations were just blown away. Being here on opening night, with the huge crowd and the noise and watching Felix (Hernandez) pitch. You couldn’t ask for more from your first game.”
When I asked him what his favorite experience off the field has been, he said it was getting to fly on the team’s charter plane.
“It’s nice to have all that extra space around you,” he said. “It sure beats taking those long bus rides everywhere.”
The team no longer has its own custom jet, but does fly commercial charters and gets catered to by specialized staff. I asked Maurer whether he’d ever flown First Class before and he told me that indeed he had last fall while attending the Rookie Development Seminar run by MLB.
“But we didn’t have the entire plane just for the team,” Maurer said. “That’s the big difference here. The plane is just for us.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he won’t have any special message for Maurer prior to taking the mound.
“I like the fact that we’ve been here for three days and he’s settled in,” Wedge said. “I like the fact that it’s a day game, and we’ve got Shoppy (Kelly Shoppach) back there catching him, so, we don’t need to add to it. Just let him go out there and pitch. I mean, it’s always interesting when somebody goes out there for the first time. You just never know. But I think he’ll be OK.”
Wedge can well remember his first big-league game. He’d been up with the Boston Red Sox in September 1991 but didn’t get into a game until Oct. 5 of that year in the second-to-last contest of the season.
“Courtesy of Jack Clark, who basically told the manager he wasn’t going to hit and I was going to hit,” Wedge said. “So, if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have gotten that first AB in 1991. That was something that he didn’t tell me because he was a class act. But my teammates did.”
Wedge’s team was losing 13-4 in the ninth to the Milwaukee Brewers when he stepped up and lined a single to center field off Chris George. Gotta wonder what was going through the manager’s mind not letting Wedge get into a blowout game like that.
The manager? Joe Morgan. No, not the Hall of Famer, a different guy. Turns out, the last game he’d ever manage was the very next one. He was fired after guiding Boston to a second-place finish (demanding baseball town) in the AL East and ended with a 301-262 (.535) all-time record. He was elected to the Boston Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, so the guy known as “Walpole Joe” and “Turnpike Joe” did a few things right.
But no, it should not have taken Jack Clark to get Wedge an AB in that situation. My two cents.