Thursday, May 26, 2011

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Family Cherishes Debut

NICE WORK: Detroit Tigers pitcher
Charlie Furbush of South Portland [Maine]
pitched3 2⁄3 scoreless innings in his major league
debut Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Furbush earned the win in relief of Phil Coke.
                                                          AP photo
The Portland Press Herald
Appearing in Kennebec Journal
May 25, 2011

His older brother imagined the scene in the bullpen at Comerica Park Monday night: "Hey Furbush, you're in."

Charlie Furbush, wearing No. 49, ran to the mound to make his Major League debut with the Detroit Tigers, setting off a long awaited celebration in South Portland, where the once gangly kid first picked up a baseball.

His outing was the stuff of rookie legend: Furbush, relieving injured starter Phil Coke, earned the win with 32/3 innings of scoreless relief in a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

II called him (Monday) night. They were spraying champagne all over him in the locker room," said Jon Furbush, Charlie's older brother and head basketball coach at Bates College. "It means a lot. When he was a kid, and I was the older brother, we never used to let him play with us. He wasn't good enough. We kind of picked on him and he was so motivated to get better. He's never been complacent at any level. To see how much he's matured? He's come such a long way."

Furbush came in with runners on the corners, and just one out. He walked his first batter, loading the bases.

Furbush struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning, and went on to give up two hits, in 32/3 scoreless innings of relief.

Jon Furbush, who was returning from a recruiting trip, watched on his cell phone in the car on the Major League Baseball television application he just purchased after his brother was recalled to Detroit from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday morning.

"It was probably the best thing that could've happened to not have 10 minutes to warm up," said Jon Furbush. "The guy went down, they say, 'Hey Furbush, you're in.' He just went in there and did what he does. I thought it was great. It immediately tested his character and maturity."

His dad, Craig Furbush, watched on TV with his youngest son, Will Furbush. Jon Furbush joined them for the end of the game.

"It was quite a moment to sort of live through," said Craig Furbush, a schoolteacher in South Portland. "The injury to Coke didn't look like the sort of thing he'd have to leave the ballgame for. The TV camera flashed to the bullpen and you could see Charlie's head bobbing. When the door opened and he stepped out into centerfield, I turned to Will and said 'Oh no.' I thought it would've been one of the hardest things for Charlie to do. His major league debut in these circumstances? No warm-up. Runners on first and third, one out?"

The first batter Furbush walked on a 3-2 pitch, his family thought was a strikeout.

"Will and I just about fell off the couch when the umpire said it was ball four," said Craig Furbush. "But he struck out the next two guys ... It was a very memorable night. A very memorable debut. That's all we wanted, to see his debut."

Furbush, a 6-foot-5 lefty, was no magnet for Division I college recruiters after his career at South Portland High School.

St. Joseph's College coach Will Sanborn recruited him to play for his Division III program on Sebago Lake in Standish.

There, Furbush developed his slider and change-up to add to his fastball, and pitched a summer in the Cape Cod League where he garnered enough attention to transfer to Louisiana State University for his junior season.

Following his junior year of college, and only year at LSU, Furbush was drafted by the Tigers in the fourth round in 2007.
"Who the heck goes to St. Joe's and thinks they're going to come out and be a major league baseball player?" said Andrew Wood, Furbush's longtime friend, roommate and catcher at St. Joe's. "It was just unbelievable sitting there and seeing your best friend come across the screen. You're trying to feel how he feels, that stuff doesn't get to him."

Wood, who has caught for Furbush since the pair was 8-years-old, spoke to his friend Tuesday afternoon to relive the moment.

"He said he had no time to warm up, ran out on the field," Wood said. "He said he didn't want to hold up the game so he took about seven warm-up pitches and was like 'All right, let's go.' "

Furbush made SportsCenter this morning.

The headline in the Detroit News read: "Rookie Charlie Furbush stellar in relief, Tigers beat Rays."

Kevin Rand, the Tigers' head athletic trainer who is from Cape Elizabeth, said he was inside the clubhouse with Coke when Furbush first took the mound.

The two had talked considerably at spring training, but didn't get to talk Monday night.

"I'm sure his heart was pounding pretty good. After all, it's his major league debut," said Rand, who is in his 19th major league season. "Sometimes that's not a bad way ... he was in the bullpen relaxing and all of a sudden he's getting called into the game because of an injury.

"He did a great job. He got out of a bases-loaded situation, pitched well and did a nice job. I was very pleased for him."

Furbush has spent the last four summers in the Tigers farm system, taking a year off to recover from Tommy John surgery in 2008.

He was originally projected to be recalled when the Tigers were in need of a left-handed starter. He had gone 4-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 461/3 innings for Triple-A Toledo, when he was recalled to replace reliever Brad Thomas on the 15-day disabled list.

Tuesday, his first Tigers box score read: Win-Furbush, 1-0.

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