Nate Reed should have been the most excited player in the Sea Dogs’ clubhouse. It was opening day at Hadlock Field. Blue skies and a buzz of anticipation in the box seats. Maine’s favorite minor league baseball team was back in Portland.
Reed went about his pregame routine too quietly. Wasn’t this a pinch-me moment? No, he said. It was more important to keep his emotions under control.
He’s a 26-year-old left-handed relief pitcher who didn’t have a job in baseball two years ago. Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 40th round in 2010, he was the longest of long shots to reach the big leagues. He had a 13-17 record after stops in the Rookie League, and the Midwest and California leagues.
His gaudiest career stat was 201 strikeouts in 220 innings. He had struck out 104 in 50 innings one year for his high school team in Reading, Pa. That got the attention of the University of Pittsburgh and off he went to a Division I program.
The Mariners released Reed after the 2011 minor league season. He got a job back home, working in a law firm with about 20 lawyers, doing mostly clerical duties. It wasn’t too exciting for the administration of justice major. The firm mainly represented school districts or municipalities. It might have been important work, but it was very dry.
Reed joined a local men’s baseball league. “That’s when I realized how much I missed the game. I could still pitch.”
In 2013 he tried out for the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League and won a job. “I thought I was pitching well. Then I heard some (major league) scouts were looking at me.”
He had kept his day job with the law firm. “I told the office manager things might change. She understood.”
He signed as a minor league free agent with the Boston Red Sox. He pitched briefly in Mexico for Naranjeros de Hermosilla in front of 18,000 fans. “It was like our Triple-A baseball. The games were televised. The fans would recognize you and ask for your autograph.”
Reed’s face started to relax. A small grin appeared. He’s thankful he has a second chance to push his career as far as he can. Pitching for the Sea Dogs is a step. He has to justify the Red Sox’s interest in him.
Elsewhere in the clubhouse, teammates reached for the cupcakes, doughnuts and other goodies baked by fans. A line of media formed to talk with Henry Owens, the left-handed pitching phenom who threw the six-inning no-hitter to open the season. After two starts he still hasn’t allowed an earned run.
Reed’s earned-run average is 10.80. In two relief appearances he’s lost one game and held the lead in a second. He tried to treat the season-opening series at Reading against the Fightin’ Phils as just another three games. But he grew up in nearby Temple and went to Oley Valley High in Reading. Maybe 20 members of his family and friends were in the ballpark for the third game, when temperatures warmed.
He had left baseball and now he was back. Still the longest of longshots to reach the major leagues, but all anyone asks for is that chance. Reed is working on his second chance. In spring training and through the first two weeks of the young season, he has made lifetime friends.
“It’s a business. I know that.” So he works to keep his emotions in check and throw strikes whether it’s opening day at Hadlock Field or on any day. His role model is Tom Glavine, the former Atlanta Braves star and Hall of Famer. Glavine was the consummate professional who didn’t get too high or too low.
Reed will give new manager Billy McMillon his best and hope it’s good enough to keep him in baseball. He remembers too well how it felt to be away.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: