The moment Derek Law stepped out of the bullpen at Dodger Stadium, everything went black.
“They called the bullpen and said ‘Law’ and I was like ‘Oh man, I better get ready’… And then the only nerves that really hit me was running out of the right field gate. After that it was all a blur.”
Law couldn’t tell you the batters he faced through that seventh inning, Giants destined for a 7-3 loss to their rival.
He couldn’t see his parents, best friends, fiancée and her parents, who’d flown in from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to witness Law’s Major League debut.
All he could see was Buster Posey, his new team’s MVP catcher, walking toward him. Suddenly, the game, his debut, became real:
“It was the first time he caught me so he was like ‘what all do you throw?’ and I was like ‘fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, cutter,’ and he was like ‘can you throw all those?’ and I was like ‘yeah.’”
Law fell into the zone, nerves conveniently blocking out the vision of a mighty Adrian Gonzalez — his first batter — and flashed it all:
“I threw a fastball, first pitch, cutter, curveball, slider, threw them all and I was like ‘let’s go, all the stuff is working, let’s go and get it over with.’”
Law snapped back to reality after Justin Turner cranked a triple, his thoughts started racing:
“I thought Pence might have had a chance to catch it, until it started curving and I was like ‘This could be a SportsCenter play, I could get on SportsCenter.’”
It was all a blur, understandably, for the 25-year-old who Law who was on a road trip to Las Vegas with the Sacramento RiverCats just a few hours earlier when his manager, Jose Alguicil, called him in:
“We just had batting practice and had a team meeting and our manager called me into the office and he was like ‘Hey it’s a good day you’re going to the big leagues.’”
Law, it seemed, didn’t bring much of Sacramento with him:
“When I was in Sacramento I wasn’t really striking out that many guys, I was just trying to get ground balls and trying to have quick innings and just kind of developed like that. My stuff was really on that night, so fortunately it was I was pretty spot on, all my stuff.”
Fortunate indeed. Just 11 games in this 2016 season and the Giants had already lost Sergio Romo and George Kontos, core bullpen guys, to flexor strain injuries. But Bruce Bochy and his staff kept cool, calling up rookies Law and Steven Okert to fill in.
That’s been a staple in the development of Bochy’s homegrown team: make the rookies feel wanted, not just necessary. The Giants know that Bochy likes to throw the new guys right into the mix, and Law was the next guy up:
“Right when you get here you have guys like Javy saying ‘be ready because if you’re throwing good he’ll put you in there.’ At first you’re like, ‘nah no he won’t.’”
Yes, he will. And he isn’t afraid, either. Bochy called Law into a 5-3 game, runners on the corners with one out, to quell a fiery Padres comeback Monday night.
Law gave up an RBI single to the first, and last, batter he faced, Alexei Ramirez. Bochy’s voice of support remained strong:
“Most of them have pitched in crisis situations before they come up here. … Missing a couple relievers, I think you look lately at our bullpen, they’ve been doing a good job with these young kids.”
“They’re all going to learn from this, and they’re going to gain experience from pitching in these types of games.”
This approach has started to work with guys like late-2014 addition Hunter Strickland and 2015 call-up Josh Osich; both have brought the 95+ MPH heat and are settling into more consistent roles out of the ‘pen.
What the ever-changing clubhouse has produced, it seems, is an accepting and encouraging atmosphere for rookies to flourish. Veterans and young guys alike aren’t shy about taking the new guys under their wings, said Law.
“I’ve been with these guys since Spring 2014 and right when I got here it’s like I’ve already been here. When you have guys like Buster, I guess you would consider him the captain of the team, and Jeff (Samardzija) and Cainer and Bum, they’re all coming by and saying congrats and it makes you feel welcome.”
Law was drafted by the Giants in 2011 and has grown through the system with what has now become the majority of the clubhouse. There’s no separation between veteran and rookie, they’re all a family. Law’s recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2014, too, is a process he can share Strickland and Osich – who also had the surgery.
“They kind of help me through all this stuff. If I’m hurting I ask ‘is this normal? Because it’s the first time going through this and they were like ‘yeah trust me it will get better’. As the process went on they’ve been helping me through it step by step.”
Sudden responsibilities aside, Law is still soaking in the unexpected moment. A call up to San Francisco was the last thing he expected. His family, too, was so out of the loop that his dad, former, Oakland Athletic Joe Law, didn’t even answer his call back to Pittsburgh:
“I was just calling him, calling him, calling him, he probably thought something happened. Fortunately he called me back and, nobody believed me, everybody thought I was joking around.”
After his start in Los Angeles, Law didn’t even turn his phone on to check his 160 text messages. Instead he sat down and let all that he blacked–the triple, the strikeouts, the moment– settle into a lasting memory.