Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Moment It Comes Differently for Every Player, but His Call-Up Invariably Comes with a Story

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Moment It Comes Differently for Every Player, but His Call-Up Invariably Comes with a Story

Article excerpt

Dovydas Neverauskas missed his call to the majors. His cell phone was in his pants pocket. His pants were folded in the corner of a dressing room. In an attempt to scratch "purchase a suit" from his off-day checklist, Neverauskas, the Class AAA Indianapolis closer, was in a men's clothing store around 2 p.m. April 24 when his manager phoned.

"Where are you?" Andy Barkett barked when Neverauskas returned his call.

"I'm getting fitted for a suit," Neverauskas replied.

"Get the heck out of there right now," Barkett said, "and take the suit, because you're going to need it. You're going to the big leagues, and you need something to wear on the plane."

A few hours later, after a flight to Pittsburgh and a mid-game arrival at PNC Park, Neverauskas entered to pitch for the Pirates in the eighth inning and became the first Lithuanian player in Major League baseball history. His promotion sparked a wild week in which the Pirates alerted six players, including one from Class High-A Bradenton, they were headed to the majors.

Manager Clint Hurdle referred to it as a "crazy, fun week."

"The game presents what the game presents," Hurdle added. "I think there's times you don't need to box with it. You just need to wrestle with it, and sometimes you need to dance with it. You just do the best you can. We've got men in place to be called upon to help out."

Barkett, the first-year Indians manager, became the giver of good news.

"It's one of the greatest things I get to do as a manager," he said. "There's no better news to give a young player than to tell them their dream has come true. It doesn't ever get old."

Barkett's predecessor, Dean Treanor, set the standard by routinely concocting dramatic ways to inform players of their call-ups. In four seasons managing Class AA Jacksonville, Barkett sent Christian Yellich, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna and many others to the Miami Marlins. There often is little time to draw up a plan, he said, but ideally the delivery is unique and personal.

Two days after Neverauskas debuted, the Indians' game in Pawtucket, R.I., was rained out. The players were stretching and swinging in the batting cages when Barkett burst into the room. He turned down the music and told the players, "A couple days ago, we sent the first Lithuanian-born player to the big leagues. Today we're sending the first African."

Barkett wishes he had filmed the scene. Bedlam in the batting cages. Players encircled infielder Gift Ngoepe, the 27-year-old from South Africa, and chanted his nickname, "Oompa! Oompa!"

By the end of the week, the Pirates caps worn by Neverauskas and Ngoepe in their debuts were at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and Barkett was exhausted.

Every player who has reached the majors has a story of precisely how they got there. …

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