Paxton woke up the morning of Sept. 7, 2013, with one goal in mind: Pitch well against the Tampa Bay Rays in his major-league debut. He hadn’t been awake for long, though, when the goal was drastically altered: Just get through the day. Ted called Paxton that morning from Vancouver to let him know that his paternal grandfather, Lawrie, had died from pneumonia at age 90.
Paxton and his grandfather were close and the news was devastating, but a conversation with Ted helped crystallize the fact that Lawrie wouldn’t want anything to interfere with his grandson’s debut. The left-hander carried on as normally as he could and it was only while sitting at his locker before first pitch that his emotions finally hit him. “I was shaking,” says Paxton. “My first start, my grandfather just passed away. I’ve got 50 family members and a whole bunch of friends there. I was kind of losing it. I was dressed, ready for the game. Then, all of sudden, right before I walked out there, a calm came over me and I just relaxed and went out there and that was it.”
He can’t describe where the serenity came from, but the way Paxton pitched that night, it’s best not to ask questions. Walking out to the mound in the first inning, he pointed to the sky to dedicate the game to Lawrie and then threw six innings of four-hit ball, allowing just two runs, one earned. He tossed 95 pitches and collected the “W,” prompting a post-game fete at The Hawks Nest, a sports bar next to Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park). Ted, who travelled to Seattle along with several members of the Paxton clan, estimates 100 family and friends packed the establishment for a few hours to cap off a day of wild emotional swings. “That’s probably the way my dad choreographed it, knowing him,” says Ted. “It was to take the attention off him and make it into a celebration, which is how it ended up.”
Originally published at https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/james-paxton-new-york-yankees-canadian-big-read/