The Guardians clubhouse suddenly got very quiet and crowded Tuesday prior to the game in Anaheim. Manager Terry Francona and the rest of his coaching staff huddled in the hallway that enters the locker room from the coaches’ area, all the players were standing in their individual lockers and Bryan Shaw could feel all the eyes staring at him as I and a handful of other media members finished asking him a few questions.
He was the man of the hour.
Just moments before, Austin Hedges reported to the ballpark with his usual fanny pack around his waist and an expensive bottle of celebratory Scotch in his hands. It’s rare milestones like Shaw was about to reach that called for this level of recognition. And by the end of the day Tuesday, the 34-year-old righty officially joined the club of players with 10 years of Major League service time.
“To be able to get to this point where I'm at now and, hopefully, continue on over the next couple years, it's awesome,” Shaw said. “I always say I've been lucky, but the training staff and the guys that we have at every organization I've been to help guys stay on the mound and stay healthy for me has been fantastic. If I go through this in my career and I'm not healthy and I'm not able to throw, you don't get to this point.”
Why is this 10-year mark such a big deal? It’s difficult enough to get to the Major Leagues, let alone sustain a big league career. And as a reliever? It’s even more difficult to last for a long time. According to the Major League Baseball Players Association’s website, fewer than 10% of Major League players reach 10 years of service time.
“It's so rare to have someone play in the Major Leagues for 10 years; to do it as a reliever might be especially difficult given how challenging it can be to find consistent success in that role,” said Chris Antonetti, Guardians president of baseball operations. “Bryan's done an incredible job of being out there and being available to take the ball as many times as he has and have a long career. Now he'll tell you his goal is 20.”
Shaw’s teammates and coaches honored him with a brief get-together in the clubhouse to talk about his achievement and present him with the bottle of Scotch that had all of the team’s signatures on the outside of the box.
“Hedgey got up and made a nice little speech and they gave him a bottle of something,” Francona said. “But that's pretty cool. I don't know if we take enough time to let guys enjoy or show them the respect. It's a pretty cool thing.”
It’s a feat that’s even more enjoyable to celebrate for this team, especially, considering the number of young players who are on the roster. Shaw said at the beginning of the week that he and the rest of the relief corps were adding up the number of games the rest of the bullpen has collectively appeared in compared to his 700. The result? If you only count Anthony Gose’s appearances as a hurler and not an outfielder, the rest of the relievers -- minus Shaw -- totaled 334 games pitched.
“A few more games for me than all of them combined, but it's fun,” Shaw said, with a grin.
So what’s next for the hurler after already pitching in the Majors for so long? Well, if you ask him, he’s only about halfway through his career. His goal hasn’t changed: He’s looking to chase down Jesse Orosco’s record of 1,252 appearances.
“I've got 700 games,” Shaw said on Tuesday. “I need 552 more.”