Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was late to the game on Thursday. When I got to the game in the bottom of the fifth, I made my way to say hello to two of my faithful readers, John and Robert. I sat down, literally two seats over from Mark Appel.
Since I'm not exactly shy, I commenced to introduce myself, welcomed him to the family and got his contact information so that I can interview him later, preferably when some of the circus atmosphere surrounding him dies down a bit and his life becomes at least a little more routine. He was very gracious and I look forward to talking with him at some future date.
On Friday, I got to the ballpark very, very early so that I could get pictures and observe early work and batting practice. Appel was nowhere in sight (and I really didn't expect him to be). It was Houston-in-August hot and humid at The Joe. David Stearns, Assistant GM of the Astros, braved the heat to watch BP, and as the hour drew near, there was more and more activity. Video and still cameras everywhere, extra scouts, extra reporters, a Zachary Levine sighting, and lots and lots of fans pouring in the gates.
Then, about a half hour before game time, Mark came on the field to prepare, doing his stretches and listening as Pitching Coach Doug White ran down the Lowell Spinners lineup with brief scouting reports.
Appel then threw some warm-up tosses and soon it was game time.
First the National Anthem ...
Then a few warm-up pitches ...
And then the main event ...
It may not have been the most auspicious start, giving up a triple to the Lowell Spinners' SS Tzu-Wei Lin on the first pitch of his professional career, but by the end of the first, Appel settled in nicely. I was impressed with how he battled back down 3-0 to strike out the Spinners' 2B Cleulius Rondon to end the first.
After throwing 19 pitches in the first, it only took him seven pitches to retire the side in the second. After that, his evening was done ... almost. Appel sat back in the dugout and watched his team win in the tenth inning in unlikely fashion as Luis Alvarez reached first on a passed ball after striking out, and Thomas Lindauer scored from third. Appel then joined his new teammates to chase down Alvarez and celebrate the win.
For more on Appel's first start, read Zachary Levine's account. It's good to have Zach back, if only for an occasional piece.