Hours before they were set to play a game against the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros surprised the baseball world - and one fan in particular - when they announced that starter Brad Peacock would be excused from the game because he had taken too long to play his turn in several Words With Friends matches, and many of his teammates were just "really tired of waiting, man."
"It's not like he has the biggest vocabulary in the world, you know?" his teammate, former National League All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, said. "You wait three days for him to play his turn, and you get the notice and check it out and it's like, really? 'Wow'? You waited all this time to play 'wow'?"
So while Peacock stayed at home to try his hand at clearing out the "Your Turn" list on his WWF app, the Astros turned to an unconventional means of determining their starter: They held a pre-game lottery.
Rudy Owens, the owner/operator of Owens Machine & Welding in Monticello, Indiana, got a surprise when he learned that he'd been chosen in the lottery.
"I was in Seattle for a welding convention," he explained. "I don't remember signing up for any lottery, but you know, when you sign in to those conventions, they always got some kinda flyer they pass out, or some kind thing they put in front of your face to sign. I guess I signed up to pitch against the Mariners."
When asked if he'd ever pitched a baseball before, Mr. Owens shrugged and smiled. "Oh, you know, I used to throw a bit back in Monticello. Twin Lakes High School Indians. We just about went to the state finals in seventy-two."
Armed with his low-sixties fastball, Owens toed the mound in Safeco Field against the Seattle Mariners, many of whom he'd read about in the local Monticello newspaper, the Herald-Journal.
Lloyd McClendon, manager of the Seattle Mariners, tried to help Owens out the best he could, writing names like James Jones, Cole Gillespie, and Stefen Romero into his lineup. "I didn't know who these guys were," he said with a laugh. "I just saw 'em sittin' at the end of the bench and I wrote their name on the card and before I could say it was a joke, there they were, taking at-bats against some welder from Indiana."
Mixed in among these players were actual major leaguers. Guys named Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager, and Robinson Cano, all three of whom had multiple hits. Even Willie Bloomquist, who later admitted that "even I didn't realize I was still a major league baseball player," hit a home run off of Owens.
"I did it sort of as a joke," Bloomquist said in a postgame interview. "All my teammates were daring me. It was the sixth inning, we were up three to one. I turned to the guys and I said, 'Watch, I'm gonna hit a home run.' We were all just messing around, having a good time. Then, sort of as an inside joke, I put the ball over the left field wall. Man, the boys and I all had a pretty good laugh at that one."
All things considered, Owens pitched pretty well for a welding equipment salesman who'd only found out that he'd be starting for the Houston Astros hours before the game. Sure, if a major league pitcher threw 91 pitches through 5.2 innings, giving up nine hits, five runs (all earned,) two walks, and a strikeout, that would be bad. So, you know. Haha. Thank goodness it wasn't a major league pitcher out there on the mound, right?
"I'll have a good story to tell to the folks back home in Monticello," he said after the game. "They might laugh at my 7.94 ERA, but I'll just laugh right with 'em and say hey, at least I have an ERA!"
When asked what he liked best about the experience, Owens didn't miss a beat. "The Mariners had a fella with 'Furbush' written right there on his jersey. I thought that was pretty funny, they'd pull a trick like that on some poor fella."
[Editors Note: The Rudy Owens that began the game was, in fact, a pitcher in the Houston Astros system prior to being called up to start this game on short notice against the Seattle Mariners. The author of this article refused to believe that it was possible that this was a professional pitcher, and has thus declined to alter his content. Unfortunately, it's a west coast game and we have a deadline, so we're running the article as it was submitted so we can just get our drink on, already.]