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Blackburn stellar in debut before family, friends

Right-hander allowed an unearned run in 6 innings
MLB.com

OAKLAND -- In Paul Blackburn's eyes, Saturday, July 1, 2017, will always hold a special place in his heart.

"Honestly, this is probably one of the best days of my life," Blackburn said. "I'm just trying to take it all in. I'm not really sure it's hit me yet, but it was a lot of fun."

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OAKLAND -- In Paul Blackburn's eyes, Saturday, July 1, 2017, will always hold a special place in his heart.

"Honestly, this is probably one of the best days of my life," Blackburn said. "I'm just trying to take it all in. I'm not really sure it's hit me yet, but it was a lot of fun."

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Making his Major League debut less than an hour from his hometown and in front of hundreds of friends and family members, Blackburn was excellent, going six innings and allowing just one unearned run. The right-hander gave up three hits, walked one and hit one batter while striking out four, getting a no-decision as the A's lost to the Braves, 4-3, at the Coliseum.

"I thought his composure was great," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "From the very start you worry about nerves a little bit, [but it] didn't seem like there were any. He used all his pitches. Even though we did make some mistakes that did cost us today, he just kept pitching. He hadn't been into the seventh all year, so to give us six the way he did was more than we could expect."

Video: ATL@OAK: Melvin on Blackburn's first career start

Blackburn, 23, was born in Antioch, a 40-mile drive away from the Coliseum, and went to Heritage High School in nearby Brentwood, becoming the first Heritage High graduate to play in the Majors. Though he grew up a Giants fan, Blackburn said he went to more games in Oakland as a youngster, including Dallas Braden's perfect game in 2009.

While there were some nerves over starting, Blackburn was surprised by how they came about in the 24 hours leading up to first pitch.

"It honestly wasn't as bad as I expected it to be," Blackburn said. "It was more leading up to it last night, just sitting there thinking about everything. Last night I couldn't really sleep, but I was excited and I didn't have as much nerves as I thought I was going to have."

For the No. 22 prospect in the A's system according to MLBPipeline.com, facing the veteran Braves hitters was a moment that made him realize that he was in the big leagues.

Video: ATL@OAK: Blackburn's father talks son's first game

"It's just seeing guys that you know you've watched on TV before and then kind of facing them -- it's kind of like a wild moment," Blackburn said. "Brandon Phillips, Matt Kemp, their whole lineup pretty much. I had a lot of fun today."

Blackburn said he thought somewhere between 300-400 people came out to see him pitch that he knew of. They all made themselves known, giving Blackburn a loud cheer when he was introduced before the game and as he took the mound.

Then, as he finished the sixth inning, he walked off the mound and to the dugout to a standing ovation, capping off a day that will most likely never leave Blackburn's mind.

"It was awesome, honestly," Blackburn said. "I felt like that was probably my last inning, and I kind of just looked around and tried to take it all in. It was awesome."

Alex Simon is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @alexsimon99.

Oakland Athletics, Paul Blackburn