Mead's callup sparks intercontinental family odyssey

As Curtis makes first start, family and friends arrive via impromptu 30-hour journey

August 5th, 2023

DETROIT -- The Ballad of will no doubt grow over the years and sprout various iterations as it’s passed on to family members and friends. Did he call with the news at 7 a.m., or was it 6? Did the trans-Pacific flight take 30 total hours, or longer? And what’s with crying in the customs line at LAX?

Even the most mundane recollections of how it all went down make for a pretty great callup story for baseball’s No. 31 overall prospect (No. 3 on the Rays, per MLB Pipeline), who made his first MLB start on Saturday afternoon during Tampa Bay’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park.

“It’s surreal,” Sandy Mead -- Curtis’ mom -- said.

“Insane,” sister Jamie agreed.

By the time Curtis was announced in the starting lineup, members of the Mead clan -- mom, dad, sister, agents, friend, girlfriend and her family -- were settled comfortably in their seats behind home plate without betraying a hint of what a whirlwind the past 48 hours had been.

It started with a phone call …
When Sandy’s phone rang at 6 a.m. Australian time, she thought nothing of it because of the time difference. But then there was Curtis on the other end, so emotional he could barely get the words out. After five Minor League seasons, he was getting called up for the first time.

And after that?

“A lot of chaos,” Sandy said.

Tim and Sandy Mead had just spent a few months stateside visiting their son and daughter, but there was no question that they would head to Detroit. Thus began a chain reaction of phone calls, e-mails and internet searches as the Meads scrambled to take off work and find a flight -- any flight -- that would arrive in time for the Rays’ next game.

Less than 10 hours after Sandy answered the phone that morning, she, Tim, and Jamie left the airport in Adelaide, Australia, on the first leg of their trip to Detroit.

‘Do you want to go to Detroit?’
When Delaney Wood’s phone rang that Friday, Curtis’ girlfriend knew “it was either really good or really bad.”

“He kind of went silent for a second, and then he was so emotional, he couldn't get it out. And I just knew,” Delaney recalled. “And finally, he said, ‘Do you want to go to Detroit?’”

Curtis’ family was still in another hemisphere when he arrived at the ballpark on Friday, but Wood, her parents and Curtis’ two agents -- all of whom were already in the U.S. -- were there with bells on.

Good thing, too: Even though Curtis wasn’t in the starting lineup, he entered in the bottom of the seventh, played third and took his first MLB at-bat in the top of the eighth.

In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that was on brand for the rest of the frenzied day, Curtis blasted the first offering from Tigers reliever Brendan White up the first-base line for his first career hit.

“I think I was going to swing no matter where it was,” Curtis laughed afterward. “It just happened to be a strike.”

Somewhere over the Pacific …
Tim, Sandy and Jamie, meanwhile, were roughly 20 hours and two legs into their Adelaide -> Melbourne (Australia) -> Los Angeles -> Detroit voyage. The three of them had just landed in Los Angeles and gotten out their phones as they waited in the customs line, when there it was.

Curtis’ first hit.

They’d made it “there” just in time.

“We saw it come through,” Sandy said, beaming. “... We had been flying, so we didn't even know he'd gotten into the game. We were crying. The customs people probably thought we were fruitcakes.”

No place like home
Some 10,000 miles and 40 hours later, the members of Curtis Mead’s cheering section gathered behind home plate following the game to congratulate their big leaguer in person. He went 0-for-3 on Saturday, reaching base once on a hit-by-pitch and showing off a smooth backhand to pick off a chopper up the third-base line, firing to first for the second out of the fourth inning.

None of that mattered, though. They were here, he was there and everyone was finally free to soak up the moment.

“It's just been a whirlwind,” Delaney said.