Right-handed reliever Dewon Day was on vacation in New York City last fall, about to go out with a friend to watch an American League Championship Series game between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
Though the Rays had already eliminated his own team, the Chicago White Sox, in the first round of the playoffs, Day was still cheering for the Rays. After all, one of his best friends, shortstop Reid Brignac, was with the club.
Then Day’s cel phone rang and he got the news.
He’d just been claimed on waivers by the Boston Red Sox.
“I was like, ‘Damn, I don’t know who to cheer for now,'” he laughed, recalling the night.
It was the second time that Day, now 28, had changed organizations. And it wouldn’t be the last time.
Though he never threw a pitch in a Red Sox uniform, he participated in the organization’s winter Rookie Development Program that January, spending time with the coaches and the players he thought would be his future teammates.
“I really liked everything they did with that organization, how they treated their players on and off the field really wowed me,” he recalled. “But while I don’t usually really keep up with that stuff, I pay some attention to transactions and I noticed they were signing a lot of free agents.”
Enough so that one day after lunch, when he saw farm director Mike Hazen approach him, he had an idea what was up.
“I knew what time it was,” he laughed. “They told me that they had designated me for assignment and that I’d been claimed.”
By the Tampa Bay Rays.
This marked Day’s third American League East club since he’d turned pro in 2003.
Originally drafted out of Southern University in 2002 by the Toronto Blue Jays, the lanky Mississippi native had struggled through the good and the bad in his first few pro seasons. His electric arm showed flashes of brilliance, his slider was nasty, but elbow trouble kept him from reaching his full potential.
He’d posted a 1.80 ERA and 12 saves in his pro debut at short-season Pulaski in ;03 and a 1.50 ERA at short-season Auburn, one level higher, the next summer, limiting New York-Penn League hitters to a .184 average but his 2005 campaign was a lost summer due to injury.
That winter, the Jays left him unprotected and the White Sox took a flyer on him, selecting him with the last pick in the Minor League Rule 5 draft.
Now healthy, he posted a 3.40 ERA that summer in 40 games at Advanced A Winston-Salem and had a 3.60 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 25 innings the next spring with Double-A Birmingham when he got the most unexpected call: he was going to the big leagues.
His trip to the big leagues was a mixed bag over two months, showing flashes of his potential but also some control problems. He also had a stint on the DL and eventually returned to the Minors, this time to Triple-A Charlotte.
Day made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League where he posted an impressive 1.38 ERA in 11 games, striking out 17 while walking just four over 13 innings, but there was no return to the Majors in 2008.
After he posted a 4.56 ERA in the bullpen at Charlotte, the Sox decided to see how he’d do as a starter and it was back to Birmingham to work on that transition. It wasn’t one he really wanted to make.
“Changing roles was like starting all over again,” he said. “It was so frustrating. I didn’t want to be a starter. I’d never thrown more than one or two innings at a time. But my biggest fear had always been failing and once you do, you realize it’s not that bad because at least you’re still playing. So I think I’m better now for the experience.”
The move over to his new organization was made easier by already having friends there. In fact, when he was with Charlotte and the team would travel to Durham, Day would stay with Brignac at his house there. And coincidentally, Day already had travel plans made to go to Tampa Bay to hang with his buddies for Super Bowl festivities.
“I told Reid even before I told my parents and he thought I was kidding,” said Day.
Though Day did not stick on the Rays’ 40-man roster, he made an impression in spring training, posting a 1.80 ERA in three games before being reassigned to the Minors where he will more than likely break camp in the Durham bullpen.
He could not be happier with his new organization.
“Every single day here has been fun, because it’s a really loose clubhouse where everyone is nice, everyone jokes around,” he said. “But what makes it so good are the coaches. They are all great. And Joe Maddon is the coolest manager I have ever been around.”
MLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Dewon Day: On the field it would have to be going to the big leagues after everything I went through, being pretty much in rookie ball for three years. But if you ask me this question again in three or four months, it will be finishing my college degree through the University of Phoenix online. I won a scholarship last year. I think my mom will be even happier about it than I am.
MLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
DD: When I went to college I was a nerd so I’d probably be dong something with numbers, probably an engineer.
MLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
DD: I love playing chess. I picked it back up last year. I don’t play in the clubhouse, I play on my iPod. And I shoot pool a lot.
MLB: Complete this sentence: It would surprise people to know that I…
DD: I’m a mama’s boy. People who know me personally know that but others would probably never guess it. And it will make her smile when she reads this. Also, I love to go to the mall and shop for hours. I’m addicted to buying jeans.
MLB: Who would play you in the movie of your life?
DD: Donald Faison (“Scrubs,” “Clueless”). Here in Tampa we were out one night and a bartender kept saying ‘I know you, you’re an actor,” and I kept saying no She kept on, because she thought I was lying and just didn’t want to admit it. She was like “You’re that guy from ‘Clueless’ but you look cuter in person than you do on TV.” I finally had to show her my driver’s license.
MLB: Which aspect of life in the minors has surprised you the most, in comparison to what you might have imagined before you turned pro?
DD: We stayed in some pretty bad hotels and had some bad clubhouses, especially in the Appalachian League. In a few places, if you weren’t the first person in the shower you were in standing water.
If those words scream “BASEBALL” to you as much as, say, “pitchers and catchers report” or “strike three” or, of course, “Ball Four!” then you will LOVE the fifth episode of our podcast BASEBALL HONEYMOON …
We have three terrific guests this week, but the star of the show is the legendary Jim Bouton … also along for the “baseball book”-themed ride is MLBlogs superstar Jane Heller talking about her new book “Confessions of a She-Fan” as well as the amazing Howard Bryant, whose book “Shutout: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston” won the 2002 Casey Award for the best baseball book of the year …
But don’t take my word for it … read all about it here at Wayne’s blog entry … and then please go check out the podcast itself!
Snuggle up next to a nice lamp, pour yourself some cocoa and try not to fall asleep two paragraphs in, because Baseball Honeymoon is all about reading….baseball books! For our 5th show, we talk about the best in baseball lit, and we got 3 great authors to interview for you. Get ready to expand your summer reading list, kids!
As always, we kick things off with Bagels and Boxscores. Lisa has printed out the rosters for the contending teams of the World Baseball Classic, and intimates that some pitching staffs might be a little thin thanks to their MLB teams protecting pitchers from the tournament. Wayne lets all know that his knuckler is ready for the call, if needed.
Our 1st interview of the show (at 16:00) is a highlight for both hosts; a major figure from their youth consented to be on the show (thankfully our reputation did not precede us). Ex-pitcher, sports anchor, actor and, of course, author Jim Bouton (of “Ball Four” fame) gives us about 15 minutes of fascinating talk. Lisa stifles the desire to blurt out “You’re my biggest fan!!!”. Jim talks about the incentive to write the book, the initial very negative reaction he got, and the ensuing accolades. He also talks about his process, and some of the other projects he has been involved with. He gets Wayne’s vote for best guest yet!
At 30:50 we apologize for our destruction of “The Sandlot”, and award a BH mug to one of the many contest entrants. Then Wayne presents the new contest. Good luck, and no cheating!
Author Jane Heller discusses her newest book “Confessions of a She-Fan” at 33:21. It’s a very funny, very personal account of a season following her beloved Yankees around the country, husband in tow. Jane chats about her frustrations getting access to the Yanks, and about how a personal venting session morphed into a hugely entertaining work of non-fiction.
44:36- Music; “Black to Blue”, Jamieson Tobey.
The guests keep coming, as Lisa interviews author Howard Bryant at 46:40. Howard wrote about the history of racism within the Red Sox organization in his book “Shut Out; A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston”. Howard describes what it was like to grow up as a black man in Boston and how in his community, the Red Sox were ignored, while in others they were revered. He also gives us a preview of his forthcoming biography of Henry Aaron.
59:05- Music; “Everybody Feels The Same”, Jamieson Tobey.
At 59:45 we start our top 5 lists of baseball books. Lisa admits that she was stretching to find top 5 movies and songs, but had the opposite problem with books. She’s a writer, and we must give her some slack. Most of the crossover is on each of the hosts’ honorable mention lists, but you KNOW a book discussed on this show would be in the top 2 for both. By the way, all 3 guests also chime in on their favorite baseball books, so have a pen and paper handy for some great recommendations.
We had to hold off on Curly W segment due to the length of this episode, but Bill will return on the next show with more pith and vinegar.
1:11:50- Music; “Smoke”, Jamieson Tobey.