From his seat in the bullpen, South Portland’s Charlie Furbush was taking in the scene at Comerica Park Monday night, minding his own business, when his name was called.

It was the top of the fourth inning during his third day after reporting for duty in the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen.

Starter Phil Coke turned an ankle and with no real warm-up, Furbush jogged through the bullpen door and to the mound.

It was May 23, 2011, a little after 8 p.m., a day he will never forget.

“Running in, it was like, all right, here we go. This is happening,” said Furbush, his voice calm and happy. “Everything I’ve ever wanted to do in my life is finally coming true. It was definitely something I’ll never forget.”

Furbush earned a win with 3 2/3 scoreless innings, and was doused with beer in the clubhouse after the game by his teammates.

When he got to the mound, he took the ball from Manager Jim Leyland, then took just seven warm-up pitches and got to work.

“I didn’t want to take my time and just throw and throw out there,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s just strap it on and go.’“

Furbush kept the ball down, mixed speeds and kept batters off balance, finishing his 3 2/3 innings with two strikeouts, one walk, two hits and no runs.

He walked his first batter, Sean Rodriguez, on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases, then struck out Felipe Lopez and Kelly Shoppach to end the inning and escape the jam.

“It was definitely an exciting time for me, getting those strikeouts to get out of it,” said Furbush. “The crowd was up cheering pretty loud. I was trying to take it all in and couldn’t help but smile.

“When I got done, I let it all hit me, sink in. What a great feeling. It’s something I’ve tried to do for so long and finally it happened. I can’t be any more happy.”

Another pitcher from Maine — Bill Swift — has a pretty good idea of what Furbush was feeling.

He still has not forgotten a special day in his career: June 7, 1985.

That was the day Swift, who also grew up in South Portland, made his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners on the road against the Cleveland Indians.

“You don’t forget that first day,” said Swift, now a high school coach in Arizona. “I was really in the same boat as Charlie. I was in Double-A in Chattanooga that year, had a good spring training and they called me up to Cleveland in June.

“Some kid got a blister on his finger, I came in, got a win in relief, just like he did, and things kind of went from there.”

Swift put together a 13-year major league career with four franchises, leading the National League with a 2.08 ERA in 1992 for the San Francisco Giants and posting 21 wins in 1993.

He never forgot his roots.

A star at the University of Maine for Coach John Winkin, Swift returned last summer for a get-together and drove by his old field at South Portland High, the same field Furbush played on in high school.

“I have lots of memories there,” said Swift, who’s sister-in-law still lives near Willard Beach. “High school is a fun time, college is greater and the big leagues — well, it was a dream of mine, especially coming out of Maine.

“I’m happy for Charlie. Anytime someone from Maine gets called up to the big leagues it’s a big deal.”

Furbush’s supporters in Maine would agree.

St. Joseph’s Coach Will Sanborn got a text message Monday night that his former pitcher had been called in. The two had exchanged messages over the weekend, and Furbush had told him he thought Monday could be the night.

Sanborn and his wife watched the game on his laptop, his mind wandering back to the days Furbush overpowered hitters in Division III baseball and his breakout summer in the Cape Cod League, when Sanborn knew he had to let him go.

“Who wants to lose the greatest pitcher this school’s ever had? On the other hand you want what’s right for him,” said Sanborn.

Furbush transferred to Louisiana State for his junior year.

In June 2007, the Tigers drafted him in the fourth round and he set off to join the farm system.

“I think what can get lost in a moment like this is the willingness to do what it takes to get to the level he’s at,” said Sanborn. “You’re not riding around in limousines in the Cape Cod League. Same goes for LSU.

“Then he gets drafted and slugs it out in the minors. There’s the (elbow) surgery, having to come back. That takes a lot of determination.”

Greg King, head coach at Thomas College in Waterville, coached Furbush in the Cape Cod League with the Hyannis Mets. King offered him a temporary contract the summer of 2005 and on Furbush’s tryout, he struck out all six batters he faced.

Later, King watched him turn the corner and learn that pitching was about more than pounding fastballs through the strike zone.

“We had a pitching coach from Cal State-Fullerton,” said King. “He called the game from the dugout and Charlie was the pitcher who shook him off most.

“I told him, ‘You shake him off once more and I’m going to put you in the bullpen.’ He said, ‘OK.’ He pitched eight innings, gave up one run.”

The following summer King saw that magical ability Furbush has to block out the pressure.

“He was opening-day starter and when LSU was recruiting him the coach says in his thick Southern accent to me, ‘Can he handle pitching in front of seven, eight-thousand people?’” recalled King. “I said, ‘He’s a lefty. Nothing fazes him. He has an ability to block things out.

“Monday night, I could just picture him. That’s how he was.”

His delivery hasn’t changed either.

“Sure, he’s developed his pitches. He’s throwing harder. He’s bigger and stronger,” said Sanborn. “But it’s the same delivery, which is kind of cool. You look and see that’s our guy.

“I’ve seen him grow up, mature and get much more serious about his baseball. Yet he’s still the same Charlie Furbush. He’s got that same great smile. He’s a small-town (guy). Everybody likes him. And he’s not going to forget where he’s from.”

His first calls on Monday night were to his parents and brothers. He returned calls to friends the next day.

He relived the experience, basked in the support and answered questions about his future regarding his call-up.

“It’s been a pretty special time, but I’ve got to keep it all within myself,” said Furbush. “I’ll take in what I think is valuable information and keep doing what I’m doing.”

Furbush delivered again Friday night, when the Boston Red Sox faced the Tigers in the second game of a four-game series at Detroit.

With his father Craig in the stands, he went five scoreless innings in relief, striking out six, including David Ortiz and Carl Crawford back to back.

“They haven’t indicated what is next, but I’m ready to go. Anything I can do to help the team win, I’m on board for,” he said.

“But you’ve got to take it one pitch at a time.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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