By Aaron Cheris
Sky Sox pitcher Tim Dillard has faced thousands of hitters over the course of his professional career.
He rarely had the opportunity to pitch to a Hall of Famer. But one such opportunity came in 2007.
In 2007, with the Brewers for his first big league spring training, Dillard got the opportunity to pitch to one of the greatest players to ever play his position, and it was a moment he’ll never forget.
The Brewers traveled to play the Oakland A’s, who had recently signed aging legend Mike Piazza.
In his spring training debut with the A’s, Piazza drove in a pair of runs to lead the A’s past a Brewers split squad on March 2, 2007, but that’s not what Dillard remembers from the game.
Dillard didn’t know he would be facing a legend that day, and when he realized what was happening it came as a surprise.
“I didn’t even know he was going to be batting,” Dillard recalled. “They announced him and I looked up and all I could think was, ‘Holy crap, this is Mike Piazza.'”
After getting over the initial excitement, Dillard figured out a plan to get Piazza out.
“My next thought was that if he hits a ball on the ground, it was probably going to be a double play,” he said. “He’s had 20 years of catching in his knees.”
With that, Dillard went to work and executed his strategy.
“I threw a good pitch down, I think it was a slider down and away and he rolled over on it and boom, double play,” Dillard said happily.
He returned to the dugout and tried to play it cool, but that didn’t work as planned.
“I walked off the field, tried to play it cool like I did something cool,” he said. “But I got back to the dugout and geeked out.”
The opportunity to pitch to a legend of the game is one Dillard will remember.
“I’m one of a thousand people that probably faced him but the fact that I got to play against a Hall of Famer is really cool,” he said.
Watching Piazza’s Hall of Fame speech in Cooperstown earlier today, Dillard thought it was missing something.
During Piazza’s speech, I bet all he was thinking was…how he grounded into a double-play off Tim Dillard in spring training 2007. #HOFWKND
— Tim Dillard (@DimTillard) July 24, 2016
“I’m surprised he didn’t bring that up in his Hall of Fame speech,” Dillard said jokingly.