Paw Paw and his RV, traveling 4 ½ days and 1,700 miles from Mobile, Alabama, will be proudly sitting at Chase Field on Friday at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ home opener.
Harvey Morris, 78, isn’t about to miss the chance to see his grandson, new D-backs reliever Matt Peacock, pitch in the Major Leagues with his very own eyes.
Morris already is kicking himself for missing history Tuesday when Peacock made his major-league debut and became the first pitcher since 1945 to win an extra-inning game and produce a hit in his first game against the Colorado Rockies in Denver, while listening to his daughter, Missy Nolen (Matt’s mom) cry joyously on the phone.
“It was 1 in the morning when Matt struck out that last batter for the win,’’ Morris said, “and my wife, Ruby, started screaming inside the RV Park in Albuquerque. We were just hoping we didn’t wake up any of the neighbors. We couldn’t believe it."
Morris sent a text message to his grandson congratulating him the next morning. It was one of 170 messages that Peacock received after the Diamondbacks’ 10-8, 13-inning victory over the Rockies. He came into the game in the 11th inning, gave up two unearned runs in three innings, and by the end of the night, was the winning pitcher, and even got a base hit.
Peacock got the game ball from the final out, the baseball from his hit, and the lineup card commemorating his historic debut. He was the first pitcher since Marino Pieretti of the 1945 Washington Senators to make his major-league debut in an extra-inning game, record a victory, and collect a hit.
“I never thought that I’d be wearing steel-toed boots covered with oil, welding just a few years ago in the sawmill,“ Peacock told USA TODAY Sports, “to now wearing baseball spikes and pitching in the big leagues.
“There are people giving me this food in the clubhouse that’s amazing. I’m like, 'What’s is going on here.' I feel like I should be helping them out. They got guys putting my clothes away. I’m like, 'Hey, let me do that.'
“I still can’t believe I’m here.’’
Well, to be honest, neither can a whole lot of folks in Peacock’s life.
This is a 27-year-old who had only one Division 1 scholarship offer out of Saraland (Alabama) High School, struggled with a 11.29 ERA in his first two collegiate seasons, got hurt, underwent elbow surgery, quit the baseball team, and went to work it at the family saw mill.
“I thought I was done, I think a lot of people did,’’ Peacock said. “I got a bone spur removed. I strained my forearm. I couldn’t throw a ball 60 feet. I figured it was time to get on with life.’’
He walked up to South Alabama coach Mark Calvi, told him to give his scholarship to someone else, and hit the saw mill tour for Morris Industrial Corporation, started by his grandfather, traveling from Luka, Mississippi, to the Florida Panhandle, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Illinois.
“There were a lot of 90-hour weeks, but you get double-time,’’ Peacock said. “Even starting out, with no education, you could make $1,500 a week. There was a lot of travel, and some of the hotels, well, some of them were pretty sketchy. We had to leave in the middle of the night.
“Sometimes the only place you could eat was at truck stops where you could grab venison sausage and crackers.’’
Well, one day working on top of a boiler, he started to smell something peculiar and suddenly realized his own boots were melting.
“That’s when I said,’’ Peacock said, “I’m going to try baseball again.’’
Said Grandpa Morris, lovingly called “Paw Paw" by Peacock ever since he could talk: “I thought he was through with it, I really did. He had such trouble with his control, he couldn’t hit the ground with his cap.’’
Peacock approached Calvi, asked him if he could rejoin the team, and was welcomed back.
No questions asked.