You could tell Brian Broderick tried not to smile. He walked out of Manager Jim Riggleman’s office and down the hallway, back to his locker inside the Nationals’ clubhouse. He reached inside for his phone, so he could tell the people he loves he had made the major leagues. Broderick was shaking, just about. He was not doing well at not smiling.
In mid-February, Broderick arrived in Viera as a new face, unknown to his new teammates. He was “probably a longshot” to make the team, Riggleman said. The Nationals had chosen him in the Rule 5 draft – the second round, not the first – and brought him camp to get a look. He had never thrown a pitch above Class AA. Chances were, he’d get sent back to the St. Louis Cardinals or down to the minors here.
“I was just coming in here trying to do my best,” Broderick said. “I was trying to come out and pitch my game and not thinking about it too much. That wasn’t my main focus, to try to make this team. My main was focus was to come out here and pitch to the best of my ability.”
Tall and skinny, 24 years old, Broderick would jog to the mound in the middle of games, occupying the same innings as pitchers who would quickly be sent across the complex, to the minor leagues. Broderick would throw his sinking fastballs and his sliders, and batters would make weak contact. He didn’t walk anyone. His ERA kept falling and falling. The Nationals realized they might have something, and they realized he might just make the team.
Today, Broderick got the news, and he tried not to smile.
“I was pretty much speechless,” Broderick said. “I pretty much still am right now. Just to know all the hard work I’ve done and everything is paying off. I’m a big leaguer now. It’s kind of weird to say, but that’s what it is.”
Broderick called his girlfriend first, pressing his phone to his ear as he walked outside the clubhouse. Next came his parents.
“Mom,” Broderick said, “I’m coming home to Phoenix.”
“What?” she replied. “Why?”
“I’ll be there in June to play the Diamondbacks.”
And then his mother started crying and crying and did not stop. “That was the end of the conversation,” Broderick said, laughing. “I couldn’t get another word in.”
His phone did not stop vibrating with text messages and calls. His girlfriend posted the news on her Facebook page, and instantly messages poured into Broderick’s account.
Broderick’s girlfriend already bought her ticket to Washington for opening day. A few days ago, his parents researched the cost to make the trip and stay in a hotel. They figured it would cost $1,200, and they decided they could not risk that.
“A week ago, it wasn’t a sure thing,” Broderick said. “They probably already ordered the MLB package. They don’t really have a choice.”
Broderick thought about his father. Every single son in America wants to grow up and play in the majors. Broderick will. On Thursday, opening day, he’ll lineup on a foul line, doff his cap and listen to the national anthem. It’s kind of weird for him to say, but he is a big leaguer.
“It’s, oh, man, I don’t even know if I can put it into words,” Broderick said. “It’s good to know that from when I was 5 years old and my dad put me in baseball, and worked with me from then until now, everybody that’s worked with me, who knows how many times I’ve been pushed by somebody? It’s going to be unreal.”