Mike King wasn’t thinking of Oct. 14, 2003 when he took the mound for Boston College last Thursday, but it’s hard to not draw some parallels.
On that day, over a decade ago, King went to Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway Park. He was a Red Sox fan, and was supposed to go to Game 4 with his father, Jim – a fellow Red Sox fan – on Sunday Oct. 12, only the game got postponed to Tuesday due to rain.
Since Jim had to work that day, Mike went to the game instead with his mother, Michelle – a Yankee fan. The Yankees won the game 4-2, with Mariano Rivera coming out of the bullpen to close the door on the Sox.
Mike, then 8 years old, used $20 his dad gave him to buy a Yankee hat. Just like that, he’d switched allegiances.
“I remember (my dad) just stabbing himself in the heart with a fake knife, saying that I tore his heart out,” King said with a laugh on Wednesday in a phone interview.
Last Thursday, Feb. 27, King came out of the bullpen himself to try to strike out some Red Sox batters. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Rivera running into Fenway for a postseason game between two bitter rivals, but it was a unique, special moment for the now 18-year-old.
King, the Warwick native and former Bishop Hendricken standout, is now a freshman pitcher at Boston College. In the sixth inning of the annual exhibition game between the Eagles and the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., he got the call to take the mound against the defending World Champs at JetBlue Park at Fenway South.
This time, Jim King’s heart was right alongside his son’s.
“I'm a lifelong Sox fan but this game I will be rooting against the World Champions!” Jim King said by email.
Mike King found out two days before the game against the Red Sox that he’d be pitching an inning or two, and the opportunity was an exciting one.
In the span of less than a year, King went from pitching against the North Kingstown Skippers to pitching against the Boston Red Sox.
“It was really cool,” King said. “Going in, it wasn’t like I was nervous, I was more excited than anything. It was just cool to play against professional players, against the Red Sox, World Champions.”
The team King was pitching against wasn’t exactly the team that the Red Sox will trot out for opening day later this month. It was a split-squad game and most of the Sox regulars were on the other squad.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some notable names still in the lineup. The Sox had infielders Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder playing, both of whom saw significant time with the big league club last season. Other players in the lineup included top infield prospect Garin Cecchini and top catching prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez.
On the mound for the Sox was Rubby De La Rosa, another notable prospect who saw some time in the majors last year. Matt Barnes – regarded as one of the team’s top Minor League pitchers – came in next.
“As much as we didn’t get to play against most of the top players on their team, it was still awesome because they’re still part of the Red Sox,” King said.
King came on in the sixth inning as the fifth Boston College pitcher of the day, and it didn’t take him very long to show off the stuff that made him the Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year last season at Hendricken.
He struck out Swihart, the first batter he faced.
“I started off with a strikeout, which was pretty cool,” King said. “The anxiety was on there a little bit just to get on the mound, since I was the last guy in out of the bullpen.”
King made it through the inning unscathed, allowing just a walk and nothing else. The Red Sox ended up winning 5-2, but King certainly did his part for the Eagles.
“It was a win-win,” King said. “If I pitch well, it’s cool to pitch well against professional athletes. Even if I pitch poorly, it’s still an awesome experience, but obviously I would much rather pitch well.”
King has pitched well in general in his freshman campaign at B.C., as he’s made four appearances – one start – and has a 2.89 ERA. He’s pitched 9.1 innings, allowed just four hits and three earned runs while issuing four walks and striking out 10.
He got his first start of the year on Tuesday against Florida Atlantic University and was impressive, pitching four innings of three-hit ball while surrendering just one hit and striking out five. It’s the beginning of a promising collegiate career, and maybe beyond.
But no matter where it goes from here, King has already accomplished something that seemed impossible back in October of 2003 – for one day, the entire King family had no problem rooting against the Sox.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.