Ryan Court pulled up to the parking garage of T-Mobile Park on Friday afternoon. His life forever changed. He hadn’t slept the night before. How could he? And finally, the enormity of the situation hit him. An impossible dream was achieved. Exhausted and excited, he broke down into tears.
“You pull in and you see the stadium and you’re like, ‘Holy cow, this is home now,’” Court said.
On Thursday, he finally got the call he’d been waiting for but wasn’t expecting. Tacoma manager Daren Brown gave him the news. He was being called up to make his big-league debut for the Mariners.
“I always felt like I could play well at this level,” he said. “You play for so long and you see guys come up through the system and get to the big leagues. I knew I could do it.”
The first thing he did was call his parents and girlfriend with the unbelievable news. They made immediate plans to be in Seattle for his big night. That’s when all this sunk in and became real.
“Just like standing out on the field, I kinda realized just like, ‘Holy cow,’” Court said. “That was the overwhelming emotion and the tears and everything started flowing.”
The move comes just one day after Tim Lopes made his first major-league start. Lopes was hit by a 91-mph fastball on the earflap of his helmet in the fourth inning. Postgame tests revealed a concussion.
“Obviously you work your tail off to be in the big leagues and something like that happens it’s unfortunate,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You gotta fight through it and hopefully Tim will be OK and get back in it.”
Court comes from playing in Class AAA Tacoma where he was batting .279 with 28 runs, nine home runs and 37 runs batted in. In May, a strained left oblique brought him to Everett for a Single-A rehab assignment. Court was released from the Cubs in March and followed by playing eight games with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.
“You go to indy ball your first time and you’re like, ‘Ugh should I keep playing?’” Court said. “I had just got released and I was 27 in Double-A. It’s like, ‘Will I ever get a chance?’ And then you go back and you have some success and then you get released again and people are like, ‘Keep doing it. It’s your dream.’ There are so many people who have never let me quit.
“It’s a lot of baseball but when you love doing it, it’s easy.”
Court was drafted in 2011 by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 23rd round out of Illinois State University. It’s been a vagabond career that took him from three organizations, two stops in the independent leagues and even a winter spent in the Dominican Republic. He’s played over 920 games at almost every level but one — the big leagues.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re playing as long as you still have a jersey,” Court said. “It sounds cliché but until they take that jersey off your back, you’ve got to play as hard as you can. Our window is so small. I’ve just always wanted to be here.”
What kept Court going was not only his love for the game that didn’t always love him back, but also the people who supported him in chasing his dreams. He was humble enough to admit he didn’t do this alone.
“It’s the classic, ‘I still love the game,’” Court said. “When you’ve played as long as I did, there are so many people that have helped you along the journey and that’s been the coolest thing too. Because it really is not like I did it, but like we did it.”
With his experience at both Tacoma and Everett, Court is already familiar with a handful of the players on the Mariners’ roster and said it makes it feel like home.
“I feel like I belong here,” Court said.
Servais said he will take advantage of Court’s position flexibility, specifically in the outfield.
“He can play multiple positions which is a good thing,” Servais said. “He’s predominantly been an infielder; he has played a few games in the outfield. We can need help in the outfield right now, so that’s probably where you’ll see him.”
Lopes was placed on the seven-day concussion list and becomes the 13th player on the team’s injured list.
Court’s debut came in the ninth inning. He pinch hit with the go-ahead run on second base and made good contact but lined out to left field.
“It’s amazing talking to these guys,” Servais said. “They come in and they are all fired up and I like giving guys the opportunity. I’m excited for them, and I hope they get that first hit or first home run.”