What a journey it’s been for Drew Sutton. From Baylor University, to the big leagues. But this isn’t your typical athlete who gets to the show and excels. No, it’s much different than that for Sutton. Sutton was drafted in the 15th round of the 2004 draft, but has bounced around the league before he finally made his major league debut for the Cincinnati Reds in 2009.
Since his debut, Sutton had stops in Cleveland, Boston and Atlanta, before making his way to Pittsburgh. His stint in Pittsburgh however, lasted 18 hours. Literally. Sutton was traded to Tampa Bay who had an immediate opening on their big league roster. A month later, Sutton found his way back to Pittsburgh and in a more prominent role.
“It was a pretty easy transition coming over here,” Sutton said. ”It helped to get in the flow of things and play on an everyday basis. That helps you to earn some respect of the players and get them on your side too. The way everything has been going and how we’ve been playing, it makes it a lot of fun right now.”
Sutton is happy in Pittsburgh, but admittedly didn’t want to leave Tampa.
“One of my best friends plays for Tampa in Ben Zobrist,” Sutton explained. ”To spend a month with him and to get to know those guys was awesome. I hated leaving there and had a lot of fun there. It was a fun clubhouse and fun group of guys.”
Despite being a journeyman, the transition of going from one team to another is never an easy one and it always takes time to let your guard down.
“There’s a tendency when you move around a lot to kind of be guarded until you get to know everybody,” Sutton said. ”There’s always an introduction period like the first week or so. Teams that you haven’t been with, it takes time to get to know everyone like the coaches, players, clubhouse staff; it’s more of a transition than people think it is. It takes time to be comfortable being yourself and the player you are trying to fit in the system that’s already in place.”
But for Sutton, the biggest transition is being away from his wife. Not only is the time away from his spouse tough, but the fact that she’s six months pregnant makes it that much harder.
“It sucks,” Sutton said. ”It’s just, being away from her is like being single again. It’s not fun once you’re married. Once you’re married, it’s fun to have your wife at home with you after the games to have somebody to talk to and share your day with. She’s been gone since the end of April.”
“I saw her three weeks ago and then over the All-Star break, but that will be it until October, but I hope our team will be busy by then. I might see her in Houston for a couple days, but that’s it for three months.”
As if being away from his pregnant wife isn’t bad enough, the fact that the couple lost their first baby Carsyn to heart and lung defects the day after she was born last year, makes it that much harder on the Sutton family.
“A lot of the reason it’s hard is because of what happened last year with the complications with the last pregnancy,” Sutton explained. ”We knew it was going to be rough.”
Hearing the sincerity in Sutton’s voice as he told the story said a lot about who he is as a person. His demeanor, tone and the look in his eyes made it known that he’s a family man first, and a baseball player second.
“I told her ‘If there’s ever a day that things aren’t going well or things start showing up like they did last year, then I’m done,’” Sutton said about quitting the game of baseball. “My responsibility as a husband is to take care of my family before anything else. She knows that and I don’t think she wants me to do that, but I’m willing to do that.”
Not only has it been a rough year with the loss of his child and being away from his wife, but his job which is secondary, presents its own hurdles.
“Personally, it’s been a rough year because of being apart and waiting until October to see if the baby is going to come out healthy and then baseball always presents its own challenges,” Sutton said. ”An extreme case is my situation.”
With the year that he had, Sutton said that his big league moment, the walk-off home run against the Astros, means more to him than it may to a lot of other players.
“That’s why the moments like the walk-off homer are a lot more special this year than it would have been in past years because of everything we’re going through this year,” Sutton said. ”Words can’t explain how great that felt.”
It helps that Sutton and the Pirates are in a playoff race and nine games over .500. It also helps that the city has embraced him so quickly.
“I went from about 400 followers on Twitter to about 4,000 after the home run,” Sutton said smiling. “The fans here have been great. I’ve gone out to eat at local places and the fans actually recognize me and just come up to shake my hand to tell me thank you for my part in bringing back baseball to Pittsburgh.”
Photo Credits: Getty Images