Last night as I was preparing to watch the Atlanta Braves game, a thought come to me. Who is pitching and what is his name? I didn’t do my homework before the game and get all the information about the new starting pitcher but I thought, he will be good whoever he is. The Braves coaches and managers only present the best players they have available at the right times and situations. Man, was I in for a shock.
I had never heard of Rob Whalen other than he was a promising pitching prospect in the Braves organization. He was a 22 year old kid getting his first start for a major league team on what had to feel like center stage in a Broadway musical. All eyes on him, the hopes and prayers of an entire city resting on his pitching arm. Sometimes I’m glad to write about baseball and not have the pressures this young man was facing. You are a Major League Baseball pitcher get used to it. I told myself. This series and this game meant a lot to the fans, the city of Atlanta, and the Braves organization.
The first inning was not kind to Rob Whalen. You could tell he was putting too much pressure on himself trying to throw the perfect pitch in the perfect location. Probably too much thinking involved on his part but we have to remember as fans that this is a young kid under tremendous pressure. I have a 20 year old son who will be 21 in November. Not much younger than Rob. I knew my son could handle pressure and I was hoping that Rob Whalen could handle the pressure just as well if not better. After he got his final out, after allowing 4 runs in the 1st, something seemed to click with Rob. He jogged off the field not as a scared kid but as a confident young man. There was a shrug in his steps and a smile on his face. You could almost tell he was assuring himself, teammates, and coaches, I got this!
Rob came on in the 2nd inning not as a scared rookie who couldn’t hit his targets, but almost as a veteran pitcher who had been there before. He came on for another 5 innings allowing only one hit to a Pittsburgh Pirates batting order that seemed to have figured him out. Gone was the uncertainty that seemed to haunt Rob in the first inning when he pitched to the exact same batters the second and third time around. Rob Whalen with pitching with confidence, not arrogance. He knew what he was doing and allowing another run to score off of him was just NOT going to happen. Rob also helped himself out at the plate as well with a sacrifice bunt that allowed to base runners to get in scoring position for the top of the Braves pitching order. It was almost like an apology to his teammates about allowing so many runs in the first inning. Here are 2 runners in scoring position guys. Let me shut them down on the mound.
The Braves needed a big pitching performance from a big pitcher in a big game. Rob Whalen took the steering wheel and told his fans, teammates, and coaches I’ll drive. This is my team and this is my house. His mother watched his pitching performance and if pride had a face, it would look like Rob Whalen’s mother. She was proud of her son and the Braves organization was proud of our newest diamond in a rough. Well done Rob, take center stage and take a bow! Bravo Rob Bravo!