Steve Cishek Enjoys Homecoming At Fenway Park
By: Rich Maclone
A sign-up sheet for game tickets in the Miami Marlins clubhouse had about 10 players’ names on it. Each big leaguer designated how many tickets were needed for that night’s game. Most were requesting two, maybe four.
Steve Cishek needed 22.
Not many people get the opportunity to don a Major League uniform and play against the team they’ve rooted for their entire lives on the field where they daydreamed of playing.
“Oh man, growing up playing Wiffle ball in the back yard, I hit a lot of home runs over the Green Monster. This is the place I dreamed about playing in; it’s pretty surreal to be here. It’s just insane,” Cishek said from a nearly vacant visitors’ dugout on Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park.
Before this week’s interleague series between the Marlins and Red Sox, Cishek had been to Fenway Park just once before. He said he went with his family when he was “about 9 years old” and had never been back. That night he said that they had seats in the grandstand on the first base line, and he loved being at the ballpark for a showdown between the Vaughns, Mo from the Red Sox and his cousin, Greg of the Brewers, back when Milwaukee was still a member of the American League.
“I just remember it being so big and beautiful, but we never went to another game. My parents worked hard, and going to games is expensive,” he said.
Growing up playing Wiffle ball in the back yard, I hit a lot of home runs over the Green Monster. This is the place I dreamed about playing in; it’s pretty surreal to be here. It’s just insane.
The pitcher’s father, also named Steve, stood outside the visitors’ locker room after the first game of the series and recalled that day vividly.
“We came up the ramp and the first time he saw Fenway all lit up, he just stopped. He didn’t move; he just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Then when someone came by and gave him popcorn and peanuts and a hot dog, he was really happy.”
On Tuesday he entered the building for the first time as a professional and acted very much like that 9-year-old boy would have. Along with a teammate, he toured the facility and had video taken of him sitting in the stands and looking around. He signed his name inside the iconic green wall in left field that he once hoped to clear with a moon shot, right next to Texas slugger Josh Hamilton’s John Hancock. Wally, the Red Sox mascot, posed for a photo with the six-foot, five-inch sidewinder and, to top it all off, he laid on the turf and did a snow angel.
“Well, I guess it was a grass angel,” he said with a lopsided grin. “We had some fun.”
Documenting His First Trip To Fenway
Later in the day, with members of that large Falmouth-based cheering section, he took several photos and documented a day that he’ll remember for a long time.
The Falmouth native, who also starred for Sandwich Post 188 as an American Legion ballplayer, basked in the moment, and who can blame him? The evening’s game would be just one of 162, half of which are spent on the road, traveling from airport to airport, hotel to hotel, with his fiancée and family hundreds of miles away.
As if preordained, the Marlins’ trip to Boston this year coincided with Cishek’s birthday and he was picked up at Logan Airport on Father’s Day by his dad, who drove him home to Falmouth where he spent two nights sleeping in the same bed he rested in as a kid.
The funny thing is, that bed wasn’t quite what he remembered it being. “We get spoiled, all of these great hotel beds. It wasn’t quite as comfortable as I thought it was,” he joked.
On Monday, his birthday was spent catching up with loved ones around town. The Cishek clan had a lunch party at Mezza downtown and he spent the rest of the day enjoying the time with his soon-to-be wife, Marissa Mitchell.
Most of the friends at that party, along with a few more, were on that guest list that forced Cishek to call in many favors from his teammates in order to fulfill all of the ticket requests, and they were enjoying the festivities at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. His parents, fiancée, future in-laws, cousins and many friends were all at the ballpark, most wearing the opposition colors at Fenway for the first time ever.
This is special. I’m more nervous to watch him pitch here, against the Red Sox, than when he first pitched in the majors. I can’t describe it.
Steve Cishek Sr.
Tuesday he left home behind. Most likely it will be the last time he sees friendly Falmouth until sometime in October. He said he certainly will miss it.
“This was the first time I’d been home on my birthday in a long, long time,” he said. “It was pretty special. That’s the life, though. It’s been five years now of being away.”
Marissa, who teaches at Mullen- Hall School, is off for the summer and Steve said he hopes to have her visit him in Miami and on the road as well during her summer vacation. “I’d love for her to come on the Chicago trip, to get to see Wrigley (Field). That would be a fun time,” he said.
Pitching in the big leagues is always a good time for the tall sidewinder who was a star baseball player at Falmouth High as well as a pretty decent swing man on the basketball team. He said that he was not worried at all about being nervous taking the mound at Fenway.
“It’s a little different (pitching against Boston), but you can’t be thinking about that because you can’t let that stuff get in your head. I just want to go out and do my job every night,” he said.
Putting Up Great Numbers
He has been doing his job quite well. Cishek has been a key member of the Miami bullpen, arguably their best relief pitcher of the season. Through the team’s first 66 games, he has appeared in 29 of them, posting a paltry 1.91 earned run average. Opposing hitters have hit at just a .228 clip and he’s fanned 28 batters in 28.1 innings.
Last week in Miami, irascible Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen summoned lanky right-hander Steve Cishek from the bullpen to face the team of his boyhood, the Boston Red Sox, twice. It was the first time during the young right-hander’s blooming career that he’d been asked to retire someone wearing a Boston uniform during a regular season game.
“He told me not to get sentimental,” Cishek joked while sitting in the nearly vacant visitors’ dugout at Fenway Park on Tuesday afternoon.
He didn’t. Over the two stints he went two innings and allowed just one hit. He struck out one batter in the first game he worked and had a perfect 1-2-3 frame the next night.
On Wednesday night, he finally got into a game at Fenway Park. The outing did not go as well as he had hoped his first one at the old ballpark would, though. Cishek came into a game in which the Red Sox were blowing out his team, and the ball was jumping out of the park off the Sox bats.
He began things brilliantly, getting David Ortiz to ground out and then he struck out Darnell McDonald. A walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia then preceded a homer by Will Middlebrooks. The jack made it 15-5 Boston. It was only the second home run that Cishek has allowed during his major league career. The other was surrendered to the man whose name he signed his next to inside the Green Monster, Josh Hamilton.
The results of one outing did not put a damper on just how exciting the week has been for Cishek or his large rooting section. His cousin, Jen Domingos, has seen Steve pitch at nearly every level of baseball since they were children. She attended all of the games at Fenway and also had a chance to step onto the field during pregame.
Domingos said she is extremely proud of her cousin and that it’s great to watch him live out his dreams. “It’s absolutely unbelievable. I just look out there and there’s my cousin; it’s surreal,” she said.
Mitchell, who just finished her year of teaching, said that she was just happy to have her fiancée home for a couple of days but that it went by in a “whirwind.” She said that the time was “special,” especially having him home for his birthday.
His dad, though, was focused on the baseball part of things. Looking as if he’d cleared out the Marlins’ pro shop, decked in Miami gear from head to toe, Steve Sr. said that he’ll look back on this week fondly.
“This is special. I’m more nervous to watch him pitch here, against the Red Sox, than when he first pitched in the majors. I can’t describe it.”
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