Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nocturnal Emissions: Vol. 6

Richard Justice chimes in with a fluff piece on reliever Tim Byrdak:

Tim Byrdak had finished a bullpen session the other day when new Astros coach Jamie Quirk approached him and smiled.

"So what clicked with you?" Quirk asked.

They’d met a dozen years earlier when Quirk was a coach for the Kansas City Royals and Byrdak was beginning what he hoped would be a long and successful major league career.

Simple question, complicated answer. Byrdak could have talked for an hour and not told Quirk the whole story. About all the times he’d been released, traded and injured or had doubted.

About 15 years in the minor leagues and the long bus rides, cold showers and trays of cold cuts. About all the pitches he tried and junked and sometimes tried again.

Byrdak is still around because he refused to believe all the people who doubted him. You don’t think I’m good enough? OK, you’ll see.

His wife, Heather, believed, too. She’s a huge part of this story. She once waited tables during the day and worked in a mall store at night while pregnant. Why? Tim’s dream became her dream...

...During those 15 years in the minors, Byrdak got up almost every day thinking he was one pitch away, maybe one opportunity away. An injury killed him here, a bad inning there.

There were tough times. Like when he was pitching for an independent league team in Joliet and making $2,000. That’s not even the worst of it. When Pete Rose Jr. was signed, there was one more veteran player than league rules allowed. Guess who the odd man out was.

"They were going to put me on the disabled list so I could keep getting paid," Byrdak said, "but I told them, ‘No, this isn’t where I want to be. I’m trying to get out of this league.’ I remember one year a guy in another organization coming up to me in Double-A and saying, ‘You’re way too old, and you’re making too much money. You either figure this out, or your tail is going to be at home.’ "