By Aaron Cheris
For most pitchers, gameday is a simple routine. If you are in the bullpen, your day usually consists of shagging balls during batting practice, and hoping you get a shot on the mound as the game progresses.
For a couple Sky Sox relievers, the first game of a doubleheader on Tuesday, June 14 turned out to be anything but ordinary.
In the bottom of the sixth inning of a seven-inning game, catcher Manny Pina doubled for his third hit of the game, but he was hobbled once he reached second base.
In the game, the Sky Sox had already exhausted their bench of Josmil Pinto, Eric Young Jr. and Kyle Wren. While the major concern was for the health of their star catcher, the Sky Sox had a more pressing issue, put a runner at second base.
With no other options, the Sky Sox had to turn to a pitcher to pinch-run for Pina at second.
After a minute or two of deliberation and confusion, it was Ariel Pena who jogged in from the bullpen to second base.
Like many at Security Service Field, Pena was surprised at the call, but took it in stride, figuratively and literally.
“I just said, ‘Me? Ok, I’ll go.’ and I stretched out my legs,” Pena recalled.
Pena said that was the first time in his career he was called on to pinch-run, and he didn’t set the bar too high.
“I’m not too fast, maybe like (Josmil) Pinto,” he said.
Pena didn’t advance past second base in the inning, but he did provide a comical moment for his teammates.
“I saw everyone laughing when I was skipping in,” Pena said.
“I was excited for him,” fellow reliever Sam Freeman said. “I knew we ran out of bench players and I figured it would be fun to watch.
When the inning ended, the Sky Sox had another concern, this time they needed someone to play the field.
Pinto, who had been playing first, moved in to catch. Andy Wilkins moved from right field to first base, and the Sky Sox needed another pitcher to play right field.
This time, they turned to veteran Sam Freeman to finish the game right field.
“(Fred) Dabney pointed down at me and gave me the motion to get stretched, it was fun,” Freeman said.
Freeman has had his fair share of experience in the outfield, but not in recent days. He said he hadn’t played the outfield in a game in nine years, and this was the first time he was called to play the position in a professional game.
“I played center field in college, so I’m kind of familiar with fundamentals,” he said.
Freeman didn’t have to make a play in the outfield, as Sky Sox closer Damien Magnifico retired the Iowa Cubs to finish off a win.
Freeman is thankful he didn’t have to make a play.
“In right field, I wasn’t very comfortable because of the angled,” he said. “If anything was hit, I hope it would have been high so I didn’t have to judge it on a line. I was ready though.”
The pitcher’s contributions proved to be vital, as the Sky Sox won that game in route to a series split with Iowa.