By Bob Elliott
Bonnie Price returned home from work to hear the big news.
Son David Price had swung his little yellow bat to hit the ball over their ranch style house in Murfreesboro,
“He picked up the ball, tossed it in the air and used his little yellow plastic bat to hit it over our house,” said Bonnie wearing his Blue Jays jersey with the No. 14 and the name Price on the back Friday night at the Rogers Centre. Young David would run through the gate, get the ball and hit it back over the house.
That’s the first time the parents knew that their three-year-old son was good at this game of baseball, since an older couldn’t catch a ball at age seven.
Proud parents mother Debbie and father Bonnie knew right away (“Bonnie’s mother wanted a girl, so she named him Bonnie,” explained Debbie).
Six years later the parents asked for permission so David, then nine, could pitch Little League against 10 and 11-year-olds.
“He overpowered most of the hitters and he was two years younger,” said Debbie.
That was the second time they knew how good their son was.
“It wasn’t until Vanderbilt that we recognized he had the mental toughness to be a major-league pitcher,” said Debbie.
Price pitched seven scoreless against the Yankees in the Bronx last weekend and put up seven zeros Friday at the Rogers Centre in a World Series-like atmosphere not seen since 1993. Chase Headley ended New York’s scoreless string against the Jays at 33 with a ground-rule double to centre with one out in the eighth.
Price left to a standing ovation after his 112th pitch. He threw 119 and 110 pitches in his previous two outings.
Manager John Gibbons had been here for the six trade deadlines and two other seasons, 1,052 games in all. He usually can answer a question.
Last time a player was so welcomed by Blue Jays fans?
He didn’t have an answer.
Well, it wasn’t Danny Valencia, Brad Lincoln or Colby Rasmus the last three deadline acquisitions.
“We’ve never added an impact player like David Price or been in the position we’re in right now,” Gibbons said Saturday.
The comparisons to Price’s arrival are Rickey Henderson, who arrived from the Oakland A’s with Hall of Fame credentials in 1993 or David Cone, who lived up to his big-game reputation, the year before.
“Not to take anything away from David,” said Jose Bautista, “the crowd reaction and the team reaction to his presence and his outings, all the emotion, loudness, hope and excitement is what he represents within the game, and the fact that we went out and got him, because we were going for it.”
The Jays newest heart throb is the youngest of three athletic children the 6-foot-3 Bonnie explains: 6-foot-2 Jackie Price played tight end for the Kentucky State Thorobreds, 6-foot-6 Damon played hoops for the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders and 6-foot-6 David pitched for the Vanderbilt Commodores, going 17-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 34 starts fanning 366 hitters in 254 innings.
Jackie now works for Rich’s Products Corporation selling frozen foods (that would be the same company founded by Bob Rich, owner of the Jays top affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons), Damon is a realtor as well as also working for Southwest Airlines and David ...
Well, if you have been to the Rogers Centre to either of his starts -- Simcoe Day against the Minnesota Twins and Friday -- he keeps you on your feet.
Both Debbie and Bonnie, Middle Tennessee State grads, saw their son’s first start here and visited Toronto on one of his early trips to Toronto as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I watch all the games on Apple TV,” said Bonnie, who admits he yells at the screen when the plate ump misses a pitch on the corner. “It’s allowed right? The ump can’t hear me.”
Debbie said it was difficult when her son was dealt by Tampa Bay to the Detroit Tigers a year ago as the Rays, his first organization was “like family.”
Debbie is told that it’s been a while since a newcomer has been this well received by Jays fans.
“He’s a people person and cares about his teammates,” said Debbie.
That was Price standing at the end of the dugout clapping each time Troy Tulowitzki fouled off a pitch or took a ball from Andrew Miller in his 12-pitch at-bat.