Behind The Scenes
Sunday evening I was preparing for the Indians pre-game show. It was 5:40 pm, 5 minutes before air time and I decided to check out my Twitter timeline to see what was happening. I learned there was an injury to Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit. According to Twitter, he injured his ankle on a play at the plate and was taken out of the game. My next thought was to look out onto the field and see if Indians catcher Dusty Brown would remain in the Indians starting line-up or if he would be pulled.
Inside the visiting clubhouse the Indians were watching the Cubs and Pirates game on WGN. They watched the play in which Doumit was injured. The first man to speak up was catcher Wyatt Toregas. “Hey Brownie, pack your bags you’re going to the bigs!” Dusty Brown was on his way out of the clubhouse and minutes away from warming up starting pitcher Brad Lincoln. He turned around and said “Are you serious? What’s going on?” Within a minute Toregas was putting on his gear and Brown was pulled from the game.
When I noticed it was Toregas warming up Lincoln and not Brown I alerted the Pawtucket radio crew and the official scorer. It was doubtful that Manager Dean Treanor was going to have time to notify the media, so I usually do what I can to assist Dean and made everyone aware that it looked like Toregas and not Brown would be catching that night. My guess was the Pirates called the Indians and removed Brown as a precaution. The Pirates did not know the severity of Doumit’s injury and to be safe pulled the Indians starting catcher. My guess was confirmed later that night by the Tribe skipper. “That is exactly how it happened. We did not know if Doumit was going to miss a day or a week and to be safe we pulled Dusty.”
It turns out that was the first of many dominoes to fall on this Sunday May 29th.
As the Indians and Pawtucket Red Sox played on Sunday night more news started to trickle out via Twitter. The Pirates had not made a decision on Doumit, but did place INF Steve Pearce on the disabled list. News of this move arrived while the Indians were in the 7th inning. Now it was looking like the Indians would not only lose Brown, but perhaps an infielder. The question was, who?
No one was removed from the Indians game and the two candidates for the promotion could be 3B Andy Marte and INF Josh Harrison. Marte has Major League experience and was currently crushing the ball, but Harrison was streaking as well. The previous night he went 5-5 as the Indians erased a 7 run deficit. All I could do was wait and see because both were going to finish the game.
After the final out the 20 minute post-game show commenced and another 10 minutes would be needed for me to pack up the radio equipment. Nearly 30 minutes had passed since the final out when I entered the Tribe clubhouse. At first glance Josh Harrison was not at his locker stall and Andy Marte was showered, dressed, and talking on the phone. He didn’t appear to overly happy, but he didn’t look disappointed. I couldn’t tell if he got the promotion and thought maybe he was being cool about it because it was not his first promotion. At about that time I overheard Chase d’Arnaud ask “what time is your flight?” The next voice was that of Harrison “I think 7, but I’m not sure.” I had my answer, Josh Harrison, for the first time in his career was going to the big leagues.
The first call-up is a great time the manager to have some fun at a players expense. Dean didn’t play any games with Josh and didn’t waste anytime. “I called him in my office and just let him know that I was proud of him and he was going to New York to join the Pirates. He sat there stunned, then he smiled, and he hugged me like 5 times. It was really cool.”
Once I figured out that Harrison and Brown were heading up, I left the clubhouse. I sat outside the clubhouse doors and check out twitter to follow the guessing and speculation that follows a DL move. When Harrison emerged from the clubhouse with his bags packed I shook his hand will never forget the big smile he had on his face. He didn’t have much more than a “thanks” because his cell phone was ringing. I followed him to the shuttle that would take the team to the hotel. In Pawtucket there are usually anywhere from 20-30 fans who stand along barricades and ask for autographs. The walk from the stadium doors to the shuttle is no more than 30 feet and you have to walk right past the fans. When Harrison walked by his hands were full and he was on the phone, but I overheard a fan say “Hey, Harrison’s bags are packed. He must be going up! Hey Josh, congrats and good luck in Pittsburgh.” Two things passed through my mind when I heard that sentence. The first was, the Red Sox fans are knowledgable. He spotted the bags and knew it was a promotion. The second was, if he has a Twitter account and wanted to tweet his discovery he was going to cause problems for the Pirates. (Twitter is great for me and fans, but it can be a deterrent for teams and players.)
Dusty Brown and Harrison were on the shuttle and both had their bags packed for NY. Like Harrison, Dusty was busy working the phone and he knows this is not the best way to get a call-up, but injuries are a part of the game. When a player goes on the DL you are not sure if you are going to bigs for two weeks or two months. You just know you are going to Majors and if things fall your way, you may not come back to the minors.
It was 10:30 pm and the last of the Indianapolis Indians were arriving at the team hotel. A 5:00 am bus to the airport was set for the next day and players retired to their rooms. In Binghamton NY the Double-A Altoona Curve were resting in their hotel. Curve Manager PJ Forbes was in his room and set to make three phone calls. He dialed Shelby Ford, Eric Fryer, and Miles Durham. Individually the players when to his room and he alerted them they were going to Triple-A Indy.
Shelby Ford played for the Indians in 2009, but was sent down in the middle of that season and has struggled to find his game in the year and a half since. “I feared the worst. I haven’t been playing much and the manager calls you to his room? So I sat there and he told me I was going up. I must have had quite a look on my face because he asked if I was shocked. I told him yeah, I got out there and packed my bags.”
Eric Fryer is a C and OF and was having a great start to the season. “I didn’t know what was going on. I went to his room and he told me I was going up. We were going to catch a flight to Philly and either be on the team flight to Indy or another flight, but I knew it would be a crazy day.” Fryer, Ford, and Durham did meet the Indians at the Philadelphia airport. They didn’t look like they were prepared for a promotion.
The Indians may not travel in style and sit in coach with the rest of you, but they do look good. The players and staff where suits (including the broadcasters) and always look professional. When the three new players met us they were wearing jeans…non collared shirts…and one had on a hat. Just a guess, but there may be a kangaroo court fine in their future.
All three players capped off their long day by playing Monday night vs. Scranton. Ford made a triumphant return with three hits and Fryer’s first career Triple-A hit was a ground rule double that bounced on the warning track over the 405 sign in CF. Durham would go hitless, but the INF/OF would get his first three A hit a night later with a double inside the third base bag.
While the three players from Altoona chipped in for the Indians it was quite a Tuesday night for Harrison and Brown. Browns collected his first Pirates hit and Harrison was in the starting lineup. He not only collected his first ML hit, but he came up with a late game tying RBI, his first in the bigs. His game tying hit sparked the Bucs who would go on to win and Harrison was the star. Saturday night in Pawtucket, Corey Wimberly gave Harrison a shaving cream pie and on Tuesday Paul Maholm gave him a Major League pie in the face.
Good luck to the new Pirates and you can see the new Indians at Victory Field. The Tribe is in town through Monday.