Boushley's long-awaited Brewers debut 'better than I dreamed'

September 30th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- Friday's series opener against the Cubs may not have meant much for the Brewers, who clinched the NL Central earlier this week and are locked into the No. 3 seed in the National League.

But Milwaukee’s 10-inning, 4-3 win over the Cubs at American Family Field meant everything in the world to Caleb Boushley -- who made his long-awaited Major League debut two days before his 30th birthday and came up big.

“I’m just very grateful,” said Boushley, who struck out five Cubs in 2 1/3 innings to earn the win. “You work really hard to get to this point, and you hope for moments like these. I’m just incredibly thankful. It’s just a cool day.”

The Brewers called up Boushley from Triple-A Nashville on Friday afternoon. The Hortonville, Wisc., native estimated he had around 400 family and friends on hand Friday, in the ballpark he grew up attending games as a fan, to watch him pitch for the team he grew up rooting for.

The right-hander even recalled skipping a night of work in September 2011 to attend a Brewers game, and Ryan Braun hit a walk-off homer to beat the Rockies.

“We started up in the nosebleeds, and we worked our way down to about four rows behind the dugout,” Boushley said of that Sept. 13, 2011, 11-inning thriller. “We wound up on the big screen and everything, too.”

Boushley took a unique path to the Majors. He attended University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, a two-year college, from 2012-13 as he decided what he wanted to study. He played club baseball there before transferring to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he pitched for two seasons.

The Padres drafted Boushley in the 33rd round in 2017, and he spent four seasons in San Diego’s system before pitching the past two at Triple-A Nashville.

Friday, a little over 12 years after watching Braun walk off the Rockies, it was Boushley’s turn on the big screen. Manager Craig Counsell called his number with two outs in the eighth inning, after the Cubs scored twice to cut the Brewers’ lead to 3-2.

“You think about when you're calling to get him up, the situation you're putting him in, because you want it to go well for him,” Counsell said. “And we put him in an incredibly tough situation, in a great atmosphere, and he handled it as well as anybody can handle it.”

Boushley struck out slugger Patrick Wisdom on a curveball to end the threat. His group of friends and family -- spanning several seating sections behind the Milwaukee’s first-base dugout -- erupted.

“It's just really cool to see in one spot all the people that you've come across throughout your career,” Boushley said. “Whether it be tee-ball all the way up through where I am now. It just makes me very thankful for the people I've come across in my life.”

Boushley said it felt like his group of loved ones got louder and louder each inning he took the mound.

He went back out for the ninth inning. After surrendering a leadoff, game-tying solo home run to Ian Happ, Boushley buckled down to retire the heart of the Cubs’ lineup. He got Cody Bellinger to ground out to second baseman Brice Turang, struck out Seiya Suzuki looking and Dansby Swanson swinging.

Again, his family and friends went wild. The loudest moment came when he struck out Wisdom with an elevated 93-mph four-seam fastball in the 10th inning to escape a bases-loaded, two-out jam.

Catcher Victor Caratini jumped out of his crouch. The Brewers’ dugout, with a crowd of players and coaches watching from the top step, celebrated.

“Really, after the pitch in the ninth, you could just feel the dugout pulling for him so, so hard and appreciating what he was doing and how difficult it was in what he was doing,” Counsell said. “That was a cool moment, man.

“We’ve obviously got big goals here, but the game sometimes is about experiencing moments like that. That was great to be a part of.”

Carlos Santana hit a walk-off double in the 10th inning, and Boushley was interviewed postgame on the Brewers’ TV broadcast. Rowdy Tellez and Willy Adames, and Sal Frelick and Turang paired up to give him separate Gatorade showers, and his teammates waited back in the dugout to congratulate him.

“You try to play out how it's going to go in your head, and then when you're in the moment, just take it a pitch at a time,” Boushley said of his day. “It's better than I dreamed.”