Scott Carroll took the mound at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday, looking surprisingly calm and collected for a 29-year-old rookie making his major league debut.
The first pitch he threw as a major leaguer thwacked into Tyler Flowers' glove for ball one. But that was enough to ease the nerves of his father, Steve, sitting in the lower deck of U.S. Cellular Field.
"I just didn't want him to throw the first pitch up in the press box," Steve Carroll laughed. "As long as it was around home plate, I was going to be satisfied."
Scott Carroll went on to retire Ben Zobrist to begin his major league career, getting the two-time All-Star to ground out to second. A few hours later, Carroll walked off the mound to a standing ovation, fighting back tears as he tipped his cap to the crowd of 17,310.
Carroll threw 7 1/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts as the White Sox beat Tampa Bay, 9-2. Of the thousands and thousands of pitchers in major league history, only 278 — including Carroll — have debuted with at least seven innings of one-run ball.
"You're talking a little less than a year ago, Scott was pitching in Rookie Ball trying to rehab," Steve Carroll said. "And now he's in the major leagues. For him, he fulfilled his dream."
It's a dream Scott Carroll nearly ended in 2012 after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament while pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League. He had to undergo Tommy John surgery and then face a grueling rehab process just to get back on the mound, giving the 28-year-old career minor leaguer an uncertain future.
But with the urging of his family and friends Carroll decided to push on with his baseball career. He did all of his post-surgery rehabbing in his hometown of Liberty, Mo., a northern suburb of Kansas City and received plenty of support from longtime friends, many of whom made the trek to Chicago for his debut Sunday.
After the game, Carroll went out to dinner with his parents and 36 other friends and family — and the check was picked up by White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn.
"The kid pitched great," Dunn said. "I know how special to kind of remember your first time. It’s just something (picking up the check) that was done for me. Hopefully he’ll be able to do it for somebody else."
It was a much-appreciated gesture not only to Carroll, but to everyone else who was there to support him.
"That's one thing that kind of helped me get through the process, was I couldn't have done it alone," Scott Carroll said. "They were always there for me, to be a friend, to talk to, or just keep my mind off of baseball and rehab and stuff. So it was obviously a big part of me coming back stronger."
Carroll indeed came back stronger, throwing 94 miles per hour only eight months after his procedure. Prior to his big league call-up, Carroll threw 19 straight shutout innings for Triple-A Charlotte. That gave him the confidence to trust his stuff on Sunday — exactly what pitching coach Don Cooper wanted out of him.
"I just treated it like any other game," Carroll said. "I didn't try and put the pressure of, man, this is a major league game, I need to be better. It's just like, no, if I make the same pitches I've been doing in the minor leagues, they're still going to be executed the same and I'll have success here. I just tried to take that mindset going into it."
That mindset helped Carroll stave off the nerves and pitch well enough to be afforded another opportunity in the majors. But after all he's been through, Carroll didn't view his start Sunday as the peak of what he can accomplish. While it was a special moment, Carroll doesn't want it to be the only moment.
"It felt good to succeed yesterday, but today is a new day," Carroll said. "The biggest thing is if I can continue to show success. One time's good, but I want to show them that I can do it consistently."