At that hour, John Bradish figured out the phone call from his son, Kyle, could only deliver one of two extremes – relaying good or bad news that could not wait – and both possibilities played through his mind.
That’s the role of a parent, hoping for the best yet tensing for the worst. So when the phone rang at 5 am Thursday in Arizona, John hoped the voice at the other end would offer a quick reassurance, calling the apprehension for Kyle’s well-being with some word of the 25-year-old pitcher’s expected major league debut.
“Is this the phone call? ” John asked his son. “Is this what we were waiting for?”
“Yep,” Kyle responded. “This is it.”
Before the words were fully out of Kyle’s mouth, John woke up his wife, Debi – “It’s the call,” he told her – and in that predawn hour, the parents of a top Orioles prospect experienced the rush of emotion that comes when a dream reaches fruition, with tears mingling with laughter.
John and Debi had been expecting this news. They knew a call-up to the major leagues was an eventuality, and they thought Kyle could make his debut the following week. But as Kyle explained the phone call with pitching coach Chris Holt to his parents Thursday morning, the timeline suddenly sank in. Their son would be pitching the following night in Baltimore, and they lived on the other side of the country.
So the tears stopped, at least in that moment. The logistics that needed to be sorted – booking flights and hotels for themselves and family members and friends – became the sudden top priority, a rush that stoppered the tear ducts.
“Tomorrow?” Debi said. “OK, what do we have to do? You just kind of go into ‘go’ mode. ”
They booked their own tickets first, along with Bradish’s wife, Molly, and her parents. Then they reached out to the uncles and family friends while also juggling conference calls and a full workday. About 24 hours after Kyle’s initial call, his parents sat in the airport, ready to board their plane. Only then did they take a deep breath and retrace the steps that led to Camden Yards.
“All right, here’s the next step,” John said. “He did this in high school, he did it in college, he did it in the minors and now he got called up to the majors. You just enjoy it, because I know all the hard work that he put in. ”
Kyle’s parents had a contingency plan in place for such an occurrence, aiding the turnaround time. Their middle daughter would stay at their house to watch Rawlings, their chocolate lab. Molly, Bradish’s wife, handed her dog off to one of her best friends. Then they hurried to Baltimore.
There was a whole host of support for Bradish during his debut, extending beyond family. The father of one of his close college friends made the trip, as well as his youth baseball coach through seventh grade in Oregon.
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After the early Friday departure from Arizona to BWI Marshall Airport, John and Debi took an Uber into Baltimore. There was no time to see Kyle before his start – they did not want to add any pressure to what would be a jam-packed day. And anyway, they’d have an opportunity after Kyle allowed two earned runs in six innings, going on the field to take photos before returning to the hotel to sit and talk in the lobby.
That’s where two Red Sox fans saw Kyle, then out of uniform, and asked for his autograph. If there was any part of the experience that seemed out of place, it was that, the random passerby recognizing their son in street clothes off the baseball field.
“How do you even know this kid?” John wondered. “You realize, ‘man, it’s a different world.'”
But in many ways, it’s the same world Kyle has always known. He never had a Plan B growing up, walking around the house with a bat throughout his childhood. Baseball was his first and only option. So as John sat in the stands and watched Kyle’s debut unfold, four years after he was drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Angels, those memories played through his head.
He’s always been on this trajectory – from little league to New Mexico State to the Orioles after a 2019 trade for starting pitcher Dylan Bundy – and he’s preparing for his second start Wednesday. Seeing him on this stage was different, against major league competition under the lights at Camden Yards, yet all the tears had been shed during that 5 am phone call the day before.
All that was left was watching baseball. And John and Debi have watched Kyle do that all his life.
“He seemed like he was where he belonged,” Debi said.