ARLINGTON -- Austin Bibens-Dirkx could hear the dugout from where he was situated in the right-center-field bullpen. His teammates had been clamoring for Rangers manager Jeff Banister to put him in the game, and when Banister finally made the call, they let Bibens-Dirkx know how excited they were for him.With
ARLINGTON -- Austin Bibens-Dirkx could hear the dugout from where he was situated in the right-center-field bullpen. His teammates had been clamoring for Rangers manager Jeff Banister to put him in the game, and when Banister finally made the call, they let Bibens-Dirkx know how excited they were for him.
With the Rangers holding a seven-run lead in the top of the ninth over the Phillies Wednesday night, a game Texas went on to win, 9-3, Banister signaled for the 32-year-old rookie to enter his first Major League game.
The doors to the bullpen opened, and Bibens-Dirkx made his way to the mound.
"Honestly, I had a really big smile on my face pretty much the whole way there. Just the feeling of being able to run out on a big league field during the season, not necessarily during Spring Training, but during a season with a good crowd and us winning," Bibens-Dirkx said.
"I had a smile the whole way up there. Nothing else was really rolling through my mind except for being extremely happy."
The nerves got to him a bit, as he let a sidearm fastball run a bit too far and ended up hitting Aaron Altherr with his second pitch. He settled down after that, though, and despite Maikel Franco driving Altherr in to make the score 9-3, Bibens-Dirkx worked a pretty clean inning. He even recorded his first strikeout, a 1-2 slider that tied up Tommy Joseph. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy tossed the ball to the dugout to make sure Bibens-Dirkx wouldn't lose it.
"It's going to go up somewhere in the house. I'm pretty sure they said I was getting the jersey tonight, even though it's covered in mustard," Bibens-Dirkx said. "Eventually, when that's clean -- it'll probably take a few washes -- hopefully I get that and the ball and do something with it, put it up on a wall somewhere, because it's definitely a memorable moment."
This outing punctuated a long, winding road for Bibens-Dirkx. He pitched for 12 years in the Minor Leagues and in independent leagues, and he spent seven years pitching in winter leagues in Venezuela. He was called up by the Rangers from Triple-A Round Rock on May 7, and he spent nine days with the Rangers before making his debut Wednesday.
"The complete back story, guys like that, it's obviously emotional for everybody. They couldn't wait," Banister said. "The number of guys that came to me in the dugout tonight, going, 'Look, this is the night.' I said, 'I get it. We're going to get him in there.'
"They love the guy. They love the story. They relish it. It's fun for everybody. You notice that every single player was up on the rail. They were clapping as soon as his name was called. He had a lot of advocates in that dugout tonight."
Bibens-Dirkx said it was simply a lot of fun.
"It's everything that I had hoped and dreamed for," he said. "Before I had gotten out there and thrown that first pitch, I had to take a step back and try to take it all in and take a deep breath and just go out there and try to throw strikes."
Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington.