By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
CLEVELAND — Brandon Maurer hasn’t gotten the flood of phone calls. But he expects that to happen sometime today when people realize he will be pitching for the Seattle Mariners in Anaheim on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.
“I’m sure all that will happen tomorrow when everyone realizes we’re in town,” Maurer said on Monday. “But my family is pretty excited. We got lunch plans for tomorrow and I’ll get to hang out with them a little tonight, so that will be good. I haven’t seen my parents since Oakland for my first game. So it’ll be nice to see them and hang out a little.”
It will be his first start back home. Maurer grew up in Costa Mesa, Calif., which is just over 10 miles from Angels Stadium.
Yes, he grew up as an Angels fan, going to roughly ten games a year and marveling at the exploits of their ace Jered Weaver.
“I always liked watching him throw,” Maurer said.
Unfortunately, he won’t get to square off against Weaver, who is still recovering from a broken forearm. Instead, the Angels will have C.J. Wilson on the mound.
But unlike most road stadiums that Maurer will visit in his rookie stadium, Angels Stadium won’t be a new experience for him as a player. Besides going to all those games growing up, he also pitched there, trying out for an Angels’ elite team.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “I remember it just being so big, just standing there looking up at all those seats, it just seemed so big. But I guess that’s normal now.”
Nothing is normal in a player’s first big league season. Everything is new. Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge often talks about the firsts that Maurer will have to experience in this first year. Playing in front of friends and family in your hometown is a different experience.
“That’s real,” Wedge said. “You have to go through it, myself included. When you are playing in front of people that you grew up with and your family it’s definitely real, but it’s something you have to handle because you are going to be doing it time and time again as you go on with your career. Hopefully he can use it as a motivator.”
The laid-back Maurer certainly seems excited about the prospect of pitching in Anaheim.
“I’ve already started trying to manage the nerves and calm down,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to throw in front of people you played with growing up and be like, ‘look what I can do now.’”
Finding that balance with emotions before the game and during it is something Maurer is trying to learn. He’s hard on himself during the games and doesn’t hide his disgust at personal mistakes. Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis are working on that.
“It’s not something that changes over night,” Wedge said. “A young Jake Westbrook was that way, CC (Sabathia) was definitely that way and then some. It takes time to find that even keel. It takes time to learn to channel those emotions. This kid was in Double A at this time last year and now he’s a big leaguer.”