Pitcher of Record
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 7 -- Mike Bacsik had been cool with the notion all week. He is a bit of a historian, a bit of a sports nut, so being part of one of the most momentous occasions in baseball history would be, in a way, just fine. He is, too, the son of a pitcher, and sons of pitchers know that home runs happen, and they must be shrugged off.
"You either have to be a really special player to be remembered in this game," Bacsik said late Tuesday night, "or be part of a special moment."
As it turned out, the 29-year-old lefty from Dallas -- a man who was nearly out of baseball a year ago, someone whose season began with the Washington Nationals' Class AAA affiliate -- now has his moment, however perverse. Bacsik will forever be linked with Barry Bonds, who passed Hank Aaron's all-time record Tuesday night at AT&T Park by drilling Bacsik's fifth-inning fastball into the seats in right-center field.
That the Nationals came back with a four-run eighth inning and took an 8-6 victory -- their seventh in eight games -- mattered not to those in the crowd of 43,154. The comeback featured a go-ahead double from Felipe Lopez, who told Bacsik after Bonds's historic shot not to worry, that the Nationals would win.
But with one out and the bases empty in the fifth, Bacsik, the Nationals' starter, worked Bonds to a full count. Bonds already had a single and a double, and with the wind blowing out, the possibility that he could hit his 756th homer -- the most ever -- filled the park.
The possibility rested in Bacsik's next pitch, a fastball down the middle of the plate. He is not an overpowering pitcher, and his hardest pitches top out in the mid-80s. He relies instead on breaking pitches he must control.
"The way Mike throws, he's going to give up some home runs," Bacsik's father, Michael J. Bacsik, said by telephone earlier Tuesday. "You can see that."
The elder Bacsik would know, because he spent parts of five seasons in the majors. And he would know, too, that the fastball Bacsik threw at that point wasn't good enough to sneak past a hitter of Bonds's caliber, of his accomplishments.
"I knew he couldn't overpower me with his fastball," Bonds said, "so I wanted to take his curveball out of play."
Needing to come with a strike, Bonds had done that. The fastball came at 86 mph, and Bonds simply crushed it.
As Bonds powerfully thrust both his arms in the air, knowing the result long before the ball landed, Bacsik watched the inevitable as well. When he began the season with Class AAA Columbus, he didn't know he would make it back to the majors for the first time since 2004. In a pro career dating back to 1996, he had allowed 29 homers in the big leagues, 168 more in the minors. None approached the magnitude of this shot.
"It's pretty special," Bacsik said, "to be part of history like that. ... As a kid, you always dream of this moment. Unfortunately, as a kid, you dream of being the one hitting the home run, not giving it up."