Scott Barlow made his big-league debut on Monday. Pitching for the Kansas City Royals against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the 25-year-old right-hander went three effective innings in a 10-6 loss. With family watching from the stands, he allowed just one run while working the sixth, seventh, and eighth frames. Needless to say, it was a night the former Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand — a 2011 sixth-round pick out of a Santa Clarita, California high school — won’t soon forget.
Barlow, who signed a free-agent deal with the Royals over the winter, took us through his once-in-a-lifetime experience the following afternoon.
Scott Barlow: “Around the fifth inning, [bullpen coach] Vance Wilson told me, ‘Make sure you’re staying loose,’ so I started stretching and kind of getting my energy going. This is my first time ever at Fenway, so I was also soaking up the scenery a little bit. Tim Hill started warming up, and they called down to have me warm up with him.
“I’m not sure I was even thinking outside of ‘OK, get loose.’ My heart was already starting to race. Even so, when I first got called up [on April 28], Tim told me that I was going to be really excited the first time, and that there was going to be a lot of adrenaline. He said to use that to my advantage, as opposed to being nervous or scared. I took that to heart and was able to throw strikes in the bullpen.
“Tim went in and got the last out of the [fifth] inning. Then they called down again and Vance told me that I had the sixth. Right when the inning was about to be over, he came over again and said, ‘You’re going to remember this for the rest of your life.’ Then I ran out to the field.
“Running in, I was just making sure that I didn’t fall. It was kind of like I was floating. When I got to the mound and started warming up, it was almost like a different kind of adrenaline. I felt zoned in. I never felt like I was out of control of my body or my thoughts.
“I had family at the game. I grew up in Connecticut and then we moved out to California for high school. My mom went back to Connecticut when I finished, and she drove up from there with her boyfriend. My wife flew in from Omaha, which is where I got called up from. I looked up to where I knew they were all sitting, but I couldn’t find them in the crowd. I could hear that section when they announced my name, though.
“When [Salvador Perez] came out to the mound, he just wanted to know which pitches I throw and what I wanted — which sequence of signs I wanted — with a man on second base. Vance had talked to me about pitch sequences, but I was pretty much going to be rolling with whatever Salvy put down. I was in Salvy’s hands. The only time I shook him was for the very last pitch I threw.
“The first batter I faced was Christian Vazquez. I started him with a fastball away, then went slider, slider. The second pitch he swung at and the third one he took [for strike three]. At that point, I took a deep breath and thought about how I was making my family proud. My mom paid for all these pitching lessons when I was growing up, so it was definitely a special moment. I’ve got the ball — they tossed it in — and they also took my jersey and my hat after the game. I think I’ll probably keep the ball and give my mom the jersey.
“Andrew Benintendi was the second batter and he popped up to left field. It’s funny, the previous night I turned on [the Red Sox TV broadcast] and Benintendi was the first batter I saw. I thought about how I’d pitch to him if it was me on the mound.
“Hanley Ramirez was up next and my first pitch to him was up and in, and he took a pretty big hack at it. Then I went fastball away and got ahead 0-2. We had the shift on, and he ended up kind of pushing the ball into right-center field for a hit. Then it was JD Martinez, who is obviously a great hitter. The last pitch to him was a fastball in, and he grounded out to shortstop.
“I tried to not think too much about [who the hitters were]. If you overhype guys in your mind, you might be less convicted and make some careless pitches. So I tried to treat everybody the same — not be scared, basically — and always be on the attack. But looking back, knowing [how accomplished those hitters are] is definitely one of the coolest parts of the experience.
“A bunch of people texted me afterwards, saying things like, ‘You pitched against a really good team; the Red Sox have the best record in the league right now.’ My brother is actually a big Red Sox fan. He wasn’t here last night, but he will be today.
“Back in the dugout between innings, I kind of went over my first inning. Not so much memory-wise, but more of rewinding of everything to see what I did well and what I could do better when I go back out for my next inning.
“Mitch Moreland led off [the seventh] inning and hit a double. I got behind in the count and got a fastball out over the plate a little bit on 3-1, and he shot it over our left fielder’s head to the wall. Xander Bogaerts was next and he singled to put men on first and third. That brought up Rafael Devers. I threw him a fastball up and in, and he rolled over to first base with the run scoring. We got the out at second base, but he beat the throw to first with me covering. Then there was a ground out, a ball behind shortstop that dropped, and a line drive to end the inning.
“I went back out to pitch the eighth, and that’s when I shook Salvy. With two out [and two on], Bogaerts was up and I went fastball away, changeup away, then got him to ground back to me on a curveball down. Salvy wanted a fastball in, but I really wanted to throw my curveball to Bogaerts. That’s what I threw, and he tapped it back to me.
“The outing went by really fast. It seems like I went out to the mound and then then game was over. The whole thing was like a blur. It sucked that we lost the game, but getting to make my debut at Fenway was an amazing experience. When I went back to my locker, my phone was filled with texts of congratulations. Then I met my mom and my wife at the hotel, and we talked about it. There were some emotional moments.
“My mom and my wife both said they were crying during “Sweet Caroline”. I’m on the mound warming up [before the bottom of the eighth], and the fans kept singing after the music stopped. Even I had chills. That’s maybe the biggest memory I’ll take away from last night. But really, the whole thing was kind of surreal.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.