Drew Harwell would give an advice to all journalists: Answer your phone. The Washington Post reporter offered such an advice after being close to finishing his shift on a Friday afternoon, when his phone rang; it was an unknown number which turned out to be Donald Trump, the President of the United States.
This isn’t the case for Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who doesn’t share a career with the reporter and is a pitcher in the Texas Rangers' organization. However, the break he was taking during a Saturday morning didn’t stop him from picking up the phone to the call of his life, that which he had been awaiting for more than eleven years.
"It was 7:30 in the morning, I was still sleeping. I was lucky that I had my phone loud and was able to take the call," said the 32 year-old pitcher, who by that time was answering the phone to a call from Jason Wood, his manager in the Triple-A. "He said that this is a call he was hoping to make for a while and he is happy to give me the news that I was going up."
Bibens-Dirkx initially signed with the Seattle Mariners in 2006, and he then had spells with the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays and now his current club in the minor leagues. He has pitched over a thousand innings prior to his MLB arrival, he has managed 855 strikeouts in his career, also conceding 302 walks and boasting a 4.04 ERA in 318 games.
"Eleven-plus years in the minors, I pitched in winter ball seven years, including six years in Venezuela," Bibens-Dirkx said. "I always had that mindset that I was going to continue playing until they told me that I couldn’t do it anymore. Hopefully, I get to the highest level but if not I know that I worked hard as I could and did what I could and if it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen but I won’t regret it. But, finally, I get that call and to able to be on a major-league roster and it’s a dream come true, it’s a blessing."
The righty made his first appearance at big league Spring Training this year after two years and his fifth since he started playing pro ball. There, he made six relief appearances, which is one more than what he had made in his previous four minor league seasons. Bibens-Dirkx conceded a single run and just one walk in six innings, accompanied by seven strikeouts, but he was still sent to the Triple-A.
"There are a lot of times through in my career," he continued. "I didn’t look good. In the back of my head, I was like ‘I don’t know if it’s gonna happen’ but in Spring Training this year, I had a good spring, I threw in the big league camp a lot, the right people saw me that I threw well and then going into the season and start the year off in a high note, I think that kinda propelled me towards to the front of the line to get the callup."
If Bibens-Dirkx never got called up to the big leagues this weekend, or at all this season, he would've tried his luck pitching somewhere else.
"If I didn’t get the call this year, I would have probably tried to go overseas but by the grace of God I was able to get the call and I am very happy about that."
He now has his mind set on writing his own story in the major leagues, as he will be only the third-ever Rangers’ player to make his debut after turning 32, mimicking Yoshinori Tateyama in 2011 and Tony Barnette who did it last year. The Japanese player made his major-league debut as a 35-year-old.