August 30, 2018


A lifelong dream washed away: The major league shot he chased his entire life finally arrived. Then it drowned. (Dave Sheinin, AUGUST 30, 2018, Washington Post)
In the middle of it all, the entire, emotional ordeal that would come to define his career, in the midst of the literal storm that was drenching the Eastern Seaboard on the afternoon of Sept. 5, 2006, and the perfect, figurative one that was conspiring at that moment to make him the victim of the cruelest bit of circumstance the inherently cruel game of baseball could possibly produce -- in the middle of all that, Brian Mazone, anxious, restless, bored, headed to the dugout to see the skies for himself.

Out of the Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park he strode, past the coaches' offices and the video room, down the steps, through the dugout tunnel, clad in team-issued, home-white game pants and a T-shirt. It was perhaps 21/2 hours before the first pitch of a game that, judging from a radar full of giant yellow and orange blobs, appeared doomed. He was 30 years old, with eight years in the minors, and that evening, weather permitting, he would be making his big league debut.

He heard the rain before he saw it, loud splatters of dream-piercing liquid darts. The dugout was flooded beneath several inches of it. It was pooling in various corners of the field. Mazone had rarely known rain like this; the nearly 21/2 inches that fell in Philadelphia that day, the biggest day of his professional life, were roughly half the total rainfall for all of 2006 in his native San Diego.

But the climb up those last few steps, from the dugout to the field of a big league stadium, was a moment he had envisioned for a quarter of a century, and now, unsure whether he would get the chance again -- later that evening or ever -- he braced himself against the downpour and ascended.

As long as he lives, he will never forget that rain.

Twelve years later, he doesn't recall exactly when he first became aware of the rain and the mortal threat it posed to the fulfillment of his lifelong dream. But he had seen it out his Philadelphia hotel window when he awoke that morning, having been summoned by the Phillies the night before from Rochester, N.Y. -- where his Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons were preparing for the International League playoffs, and where Mazone broke down in heaving sobs as he heard the words, "You're going to Philly."

"I remember standing at the window, the drapes open, just watching," he recalled of that morning in the hotel. "When you see that kind of rain, you know you're in trouble."

His wife, Amber, having stayed behind with their two young children while Brian hustled to the airport to catch the next flight, got up the next morning and headed south to join him. The rain began mere minutes into her five-hour drive, and it never stopped.

"I remember thinking, 'This is not good,' " she said. "He had so many ups and downs in baseball, it was like, 'Of course this would happen.' "

It was raining when Brian got to the stadium at around 1:30 p.m., some 51/2  hours before the scheduled first pitch against the Houston Astros, walking in the home clubhouse to find his uniform -- red-on-white, No. 49 -- hanging at the locker he had been assigned.

And now, as he stood by the dugout railing, the ground beneath him drenched, the stands empty, the rain began to pick up in intensity. And Mazone, in the empty stadium, took the full brunt of it, squinting through streaks of rain cut with tears at a field-level view that, in the mind of someone who had been picturing it since age 5, was akin to the one from the top of Everest.

"I couldn't even see much," he recalled. "But at that point I really didn't care."

Finally, he walked off the field, drenched. Down the stairs to the flooded dugout. Through the tunnel. Up the stairs to the clubhouse. Through the doorway. To his locker.

There hung his uniform. He looked at it again. He took it down, slipped his arms into the sleeves, buttoned it up. He took a seat. And that's where he still sat a little while later, when they came to tell him they needed to see him in the manager's office.

Posted by at August 30, 2018 5:14 PM