It’s a moment Midwest City native Jeremy McBryde has thought about since he put on a baseball glove at age 4.
And now that McBryde’s dream of making a Major League Baseball team looks close enough to become reality, he finds himself dreading the call.
Today, McBryde will take the mound at Raley Field in Sacramento, home of the River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. It’s his first Father’s Day since his wife, Shanna, gave birth 10 months ago to twins, a boy, Kamden, and a girl, Hadley.
His young family plans to be in the stands to watch daddy, a relief pitcher, close out the game and hopefully improve his chance at 27, an age by which many prospects have have given up their dreams, of finally receiving a major league call up.
“Even though I’ll have my family here with me, Father’s Day is tough,” McBryde said by telephone from Sacramento. “I always think of my dad and how he’d love to be here seeing me play and holding his grandkids. … Just a tough thing.”
In 2010, on his first day of spring training with the San Diego Padres’ A-ball affiliate, McBryde received a phone call from his dad, Travis.
He’d gone for a teeth cleaning. The dentist saw something that worried him. He got checked. Colon cancer. He was in the hospital. Doctors wanted to operate.
“He’s telling me this on the phone and he’s telling me that I need to stay and be with my team,” McBryde said. “I told him, ‘OK,’ hung up the phone and got on the next plane back to Oklahoma.”
Colon cancer diagnosis
Jeremy’s father woke from surgery to a grim prognosis, a tumor the size of a canteloupe. Doctors estimated he had six months.
“I was devastated,” Jeremy said. “My dad was everything to me. I just didn’t want to lose him.”
Travis McBryde taught his three sons about hard work from an early age. If they were going to do something, they were going to give their all.
All three loved baseball. Travis taught them, his main tools being long, hard hours of practice on scorching hot summer days.
Jeremy McBryde would grow jealous of friends during summer breaks. They could spend time by the pool or watching television. Meanwhile, Jeremy crafted his baseball technique and sometimes cursed his dad for not allowing any breaks.
“He knew hard work and he preached it,” Jeremy said. “While all my friends were out having summers, I was playing in games or going to practice. When dad got home from work he’d work with me in the yard. I always had the dream to play but he made me who I am today.”
Both of McBryde’s older brothers quit baseball because they grew tired of their father’s practice regimen, McBryde said.
With Jeremy, Travis changed tactics. He eased up a bit. Still tough, but not pushing so hard.
At Midwest City High School, Jeremy closed out the state championship game as a sophomore and by his senior year was a member of the All-State team.
Travis never missed a game, despite working as a painting contractor and going back to school to get his accounting license.
The Padres drafted Jeremy out of high school in 2005. As a 38th round pick, the money wasn’t great. He chose college, hoping to improve and see where he stood the next year.
With money tight, Jeremy decided to play at Rose State College, just two blocks from his childhood home. There he met Shanna, a softball player from Choctaw. After two seasons, he signed a $150,000 contract with the Padres and after two seasons in A ball was considered a rising prospect in the organization.
Back home, Travis would text Shanna play-by-play of Jeremy’s games, updating her on nearly every pitch. The couple married in 2010.
“He was so intense,” she said. “He loved watching Jeremy pitch more than anything.”
Sidelined by injuries
Then, the injury bug hit.
First, a bad back put Jeremy on the disabled list for half a season. The next year, 2010, a shoulder injury cost him another half season.