Monday, September 7, 2015

Welcome to the Big Leagues

It was the night of August 27, 2012 when I headed to the game with a bag packed for a two night's stay on the Chesapeake Bay and a giant smile on my face.  I couldn't wait!  Tom Cochran and his wife, Julie, invited Ty and I to spend the following off day with them at their home in Chesapeake City, MD. The Cochran's offered to drive the two of us so we graciously hopped in their truck, leaving our car at Coca-Cola Park.  We spent the following day with them out on the water, boating and jet skiing.  It reminded Tyler and I of our first summer together dating before baseball became what he did for a living. It was so much fun and really relaxing - just look at their sweet pups enjoying themselves too!

That evening, Ty and I sat out on a dock together to watch the sunset and began reminiscing about the season he'd been having. We couldn't believe it was almost over, that there was only one week left before we'd be going home!  We knew of the rumors that Tyler could potentially get a September call-up to the Big Leagues, but until we're told by the correct people that certain things are indeed true, we choose not to contemplate them too much.  We headed for bed prepared for our two hour drive back to Allentown the next day, as Tyler would be starting for the IronPigs that night.
It was 10:30am when we woke up to Ty's phone ringing.

"Who is it?" I asked.
"I don't know, I don't have the number in my contacts," he said.

With that, I knew he wouldn't be answering because he simply refuses if he doesn't know who's calling - he hates getting stuck on the phone.  As soon as his phone stopped ringing however, I received an immediate text.  It was Margaret Sandberg.

"Tell Tyler to answer his phone!!!" it read.  I showed him the text as his phone began to ring again; this time, he answered.

"You ignoring me?" joked IronPigs Manager, Ryne Sandberg.
Tyler laughed, "I guess I never saved your number to my contacts, sorry about that."
"You're still ready to pitch tonight right?" asked Ryne.
"Yes sir," replied Ty.
"Are you sure you're ready?" Ryne asked again.

Just then I received another text from Margaret.

"Goodbye :)" it read.

What the heck was going on? I looked to Tyler for help with my confusion.  He looked like a dear in the headlights as he hung up the phone.

"Uh....I'm starting tonight..."
"Yes I know," I interrupted.
....for the Phillies," he finished.


It was SUCH a shock to us!  We were informed Cole Hamels was dealing with an awful stomach virus that day so they would need Ty to make an emergency start for him.  Holy cow!  We were so excited, but mostly panicked!  There it was, already going on 11am; we were in Chesapeake City, MD without our car, with no clothes other than bathing suits and flip flops, and without Tyler's baseball stuff!
Oh. My. Gosh.

I'm sure you can tell how honest I am in saying we would not have made it through that day without the help of so many people!  Tom and Julie were extremely supportive and didn't waste a second of our time.  They grabbed their essentials and booked it to Philadelphia for us.  The whole car ride we were making and receiving phone calls non-stop to and from our family members, Tyler's agent, and the IronPigs' clubbies to see if they could get someone to pack up his baseball bag and deliver it to Philly ASAP.  It was nuts!  With such short notice, no one back home in Nebraska would be able to make it in time to see his Major League Debut, but that news honestly didn't phase my husband or I.  We knew very well of all the possibilities and scenarios that could play out in this baseball life and this was one of them.  Ty was excited though to hear that his agent, who lived close by in New York City, would make the drive down for the game.  He was also excited to hear his dad cry for the first time ever that day...proud tears of course. :)

Once we arrived in Philly, we dropped Tyler off at the field with Kevin Frandsen and his fiancĂ©e (now wife), Amanda.  Poor Kevin, who if you remember was in the 2012 Triple-A All Star Game with Tyler, now had the responsibility of taking him to the mall to go shopping, most importantly for a suit, just in case Ty were to stay up after his start.  (The Phillies were leaving the next day for a road trip and are required to wear suits when they fly.) The six of us chatted for a few minutes, mostly discussing how crazy the day had already been and how it was only going to get crazier!  Realizing that, it was officially time to part ways.

Saying goodbye to my husband right then was a very surreal moment! Imagine wrapping your head around the following...

As Tyler and I  held each other outside the gates of Citizens Bank Park - (his new place of work, a place we had both never been to before...)
we realized he had literally just received a phone call from his manager, Ryne Sandberg - (former MLB 2nd Basemen, All-Star, Gold Glove, Hall of Fame, you name it...)
letting him know that he would be making his Major League Debut - (something millions of players never get a shot at...)
for the Philadelphia Phillies - (the same team that drafted Tyler four years earlier in 2008, the year they won the World Series, that had everyone saying "Ty better hope he gets traded because he has absolutely no shot at breaking into that starting rotation"...he was never a top prospect.)
as an emergency starter - (meaning this was not in the plans and obviously on super short notice...)
in place of an ill Cole Hamels - (surely fans had already bought tickets in hopes of seeing the three-time All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP pitch, but now they'd be seeing Tyler. That should go well.)

See what I mean?  Could all of this actually be happening?  As we held each other outside the gates of Citizens Bank Park we decided it was.

It was really happening.

"You've made it!" I told my husband, "You're going to play in the Big Leagues tonight!"
"I know," Ty said grinning from ear to ear before hugging me tight,  "I wouldn't be here without you.  I'm so glad you are going to be here in the stands for it!"  

We exchanged a kiss and a set of I love you's before we headed our separate ways, but I found myself turning back to make sure he knew one more thing.
"Babe, you're playing at the highest level of baseball you can possibly play at tonight, something you've dreamed about since you were a little boy.  I don't care if you are up here for a day, a week, a month, or a handful of years, you've made it to the top in this sport, and no one can take that away from you. I'm so proud of you! God bless and go get 'em!"

Then just like that, I was back in Tom and Julie's truck, preparing myself mentally for everything I still had to get through that day.  I knew it was going to be a race against the clock and I felt the pressure big time.  It would be over an hour drive just getting back to Lehigh.  Once there, I'd have to grab my car from the field, drive to our host family's house, pack up an overnight bag, and pick out an outfit for the game.  I remember going over my clothes in my head because I knew I'd have no time to try things on - or shower, or style my hair. (Don't worry, I showered the night before, but I had let my hair air dry...yikes!) I'll definitely be wearing a hat tonight, I thought to myself.  Just then, Tyler texted me with our hotel info, letting me know I'd need to check in before the game.  He also mentioned where I was supposed to park at the stadium and where to pick up my ticket.  I felt relieved with that little bit of extra info and headed out the door.  Everything was going smoothly until I came upon stop-and-go rush hour traffic.  I felt my heart sink as quite a bit of panic set in.  My husband is the starting pitcher tonight! This is his Major League Debut! I have to be there early!, I kept thinking.  Yet, there I sat in traffic, somewhere between Allentown and Philly, completely unfamiliar with the the roads I'd be taking, the hotel I still had to check into, the game traffic I could potentially be dealing with, where to park, where to get my ticket, etc.  Not only was I unfamiliar with all of that, but I'd also be an unfamiliar face in an unfamiliar car with no parking pass or wife ID yet. Would the staff even know I was coming on such short notice?  Ahhhhhhh!  

I decided to set that panic aside by taking a deep breath and praying my way through that traffic jam! Glory be to God, I made it to the game in time, even early!  I laugh now realizing that the point in the day that held me up the longest was probably just trying to park my car in the player's parking lot. You see, I'm not exactly the best at parking (like at all), and there I was in my high school car trying to pull in between luxurious SUVs and sports cars. Ha!  I was scared out of my mind!

After meeting the sweetest staff ever, I met up with Tyler's agent at our seats and took in the massive ballpark that surrounded me.  While doing so, I spotted a fan holding up a sign welcoming Tyler to the Bigs. It was so surreal and exciting but I was nervous like I'd never felt before.  The sight of Ty warming up calmed me in a sense, but the National Anthem got me going again.  How crazy is this?, I remember thinking to myself.  I just couldn't believe that was my husband out there on the mound about to make his Major League Debut. Eeeeeek!

Of course with all the hype, there'd only be three things I actually remember from the game itself. 
1. Tyler giving up a two-run home run to Duda. Ugh. Come on now Duda!? ;) 
(In real time, I actually praised God that my husband was alive and healthy and thanked Him that at least that pitch wasn't a come-backer at Tyler's head. #ItsAWifeThing? #OrMaybeItsJustMe?)
2. Getting what seemed like a million texts every time they showed ME on TV, which was way too much for my liking.  I even thought at one point, Maybe I should go try and find an empty seat somewhere so the cameraman can't find me.  I definitely prefer my husband getting the airtime, not me!  (Plus my phone died because everyone and their mom, that I hadn't talked to in years, now felt like it was the perfect time to text me and act like we were currently best friends. #UmWhoIsThis)
& 3. Tyler making a quality start(6IP, 7H, 3ER, 2BB, 5K) but getting the loss as the Mets beat us 3-2.

After the game, I went down on the field to get a picture with my husband.  We talked for a couple minutes before the media came whisking him away to the locker room for interviews.  That was my cue to head for the wives' lounge.  I ended up waiting in there for him for literally FOR...EV...ER.  His phone had died for the same reason mine did, so we weren't able to communicate until he was ready to go. He came off the elevator with the cutest grin I've ever seen and I just knew he got word he'd be staying up with the Big Club.  I was right!  Since the team was leaving for a road trip the next day, he decided to skip the post game spread and take me out instead.  So where'd we go to celebrate the big debut?  Somewhere fancy maybe?  No way...soooo NOT us!  Instead, we went through a TacoBell drive through, ate it in our hotel room, and totally passed out from our insane day. Ha!

The rest of the season was an unbelievable experience for us.  Tyler got his first MLB win in his next start where he gave up just one run through seven innings against the Cincinnati Reds.  He also got his first MLB hit during that game verses the opposing pitcher, Johnny Cueto!  I had the joy of watching it on TV from the Sandberg's house back in Lehigh and also the joy of being handed the two baseballs (first win and first hit) when he arrived back in Philly.  Very cool!  The next couple of road trips I was able to join him on.  The first trip was to Houston and the second to New York.  My birthday happened to fall over the New York trip which made it extra special, plus Tyler's start there against the Mets(the same team he pitched against in his debut) was one I'll never forget!  The Phillies won 16 to 1, as Tyler pitched eight innings of three hit ball!  It was exciting!  Then again, the whole month of September was exciting!  Ty was awarded The Phillies Paul Owens Award, meaning the best pitcher in the Phillies Minor League System.  It was a huge honor as they presented it to him on the field at a game and even flew in his family for the special occasion!  He was also awarded the International League Pitcher of the Year, which is like the Cy Young of Triple A.  Wow!  Let's just say we have some pretty cool memorabilia to hang one day when we're done being nomads. :)

Ty ended the 2012 MLB season with a 4.91 ERA, higher than he'd like of course, but that just gave him more motivation to push himself harder during the off season. From a fan's perspective, I might be a terrible wife for this, but when his ERA isn't as low as he'd like it to be, I remind him that no matter how he does out there on the mound, I'll still be his biggest supporter and number one fan; most importantly however, I tell him to remember that stats don't matter in Heaven. #Truth #LargerGoalsThanMLB

With that in mind, I remember there were two Bible verses I couldn't get enough of during that time. (& even still today.) 
The first was Colossians 3:23 - "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man."
The second was 2 Corinthians 4:18 - "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

These two versus hit the mark perfectly. The first one especially so because as I mentioned earlier, my husband was not a top prospect.  He was never projected to make it to the Majors.  His fastball only sat in the upper 80s.  He wasn't a strikeout pitcher.  "He'll never make it," they said.  "They" must have forgotten that just because a guy isn't a top prospect or projected to have a long career in Major League Baseball, doesn't mean he'll never get a shot.  Sure, it might mean no multiyear/multimillion dollar contract, but hello? That's the case for most ballplayers! Most of these guys come and go before you even recognize their name on a jersey.  Honestly though, most actually seem ok with that after years in the minors and being sporadically shuffled around from team to team.  To get one pitch or one at bat in the Bigs is absolutely worth it!  So now, how did I tie all this in with Colossians 3:23?  Easy... Basically, it doesn't matter what any person projects for you in life.  Someone might project you won't make it at something and you do, and others might project you will make it at something and you don't.  These people's expectations of you don't mean a thing as long as you try your hardest at everything you do for the glory of God.  There is such a peace when you realize you only have to please Him in all that you do.  The second verse, 2 Corinthians 4:18, was so good for us at such a high point in our lives, when everything in our Earthly world was going the right way for us.  My husband had a phenomenal season in AAA, he just made it to the Majors, he received awards and rookie baseball cards, people wanted his autograph all the time, he was bringing in a much bigger paycheck, we were able to buy a new car,  travel/hotels/meals were paid for, he would be in the new MLB video game, companies offered free merchandise because they wanted him to wear their brands, etc....perks among perks among perks.  It's no wonder how easy it could be to get caught up in all of that and how the lifestyle has the potential to change where someone might find their worth from. Praise God we knew of 2 Corinthians 4:18 however, as it kept us grounded during this awesome time in our lives, reminding us that all of the "awesomeness" was only temporary and that there was actually something MORE AWESOME waiting ahead for us.  If we wanted that, we knew we needed to keep our paths straight and our eyes fixed on God's true destiny for us, Heaven.  
One other thing I want to point out about 2 Corinthians 4:18 is that it can be used whether you're at a high point or a low point in your life! Whatever you happen to be going through, good or bad, and no matter how long it lasts, it is always temporary and the best is always yet to come if you're open to receive it!

As I finish up this post in September of 2015, three years since Tyler made his MLB debut, I look back and have so much to be thankful for.  I've seen my husband reach his childhood dream of making it to the top in this sport he loves so passionately.  I've seen him spend parts of two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.  I've seen him strike out Big Papi at Fenway Park.  I've seen him HIT a double.  I've seen him invited to big league spring training with the Cleveland Indians.  I've seen him take a perfect game into the 9th inning for the Indians triple-A affiliate.  I've seen him pitch a no-hitter for the Indians triple-A affiliate.  I've seen him pitch in the KBO in South Korea.  The list goes on of accomplishments that I've been able to see and be a part of in his baseball career, not to mention the people we've met, places we've traveled, and good health we've had. I am forever proud and forever grateful for all of these moments!  What I'm proud of even more so though, is the amazing man Tyler is off the field. We have now been married just shy of five years and we have been blessed with two children so far: our daughter Gracie(23 months), and our son, Nicholas(3 months).  Tyler is the most incredible husband and father, not because he's a baseball player, but because he has used this platform God has given him to speak Truth to middle school students, high school students, youth groups, parents, and adults.  I am so blessed to be loved by this man, and to call my husband my best friend and the father of our children. There is still so much I could write about, and maybe soon I'll pick this blogging thing back up again, but for now, my hands are just too full of love from these precious babies of ours. :)  Until then, God bless and thank you for reading. xo, Tonya

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled across your blog 2 years ago, when my boyfriend (now husband) was about to get drafted. Reading your stories helped give me such a sense of peace about the crazy life that was ahead of me. 2 seasons later, it's been such a fun journey together, and I started my own little blog to hopefully encourage other girls like this encouraged me. I was SO excited to see that you posted again and catch up on your story!!