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‘Incredible feeling:’ Nick Avila reflects on first week as a big leaguer
Nick Avila
San Francisco Giants pitcher Nick Avila throws to a San Diego Padres batter during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco on Saturday (AP Photo/Kavin Mistry).

Nick Avila’s promotion to the San Francisco Giants’ major league roster last Monday wasn’t the typical call-up that catches players by total surprise. Before the Giants officially selected his contract and activated for that night’s game against the Dodgers, the 2015 Turlock High graduate was already in Los Angeles as part of the team’s taxi squad. When he received a call to confirm that he would be suiting up for the Giants that night, it was business as usual.

“I was trying to stay pretty calm, you know, I wasn't trying to ride the highs or the lows of like, ‘Am I going to get activated? Am I not?’ I got the call and just stayed calm, and just realized it's just another game,” Avila shared. “Playing the Dodgers there at Dodger Stadium, you can become overwhelmed or super excited or have it become bigger than it is, so I just tried my best to stay calm.”

One of the highlights of the 26-year-old right-hander’s debut in which he gave up two runs in two innings was whiffing a fastball past Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani for his first career strikeout. In his postgame media availability, a Japanese reporter asked if he would want the star slugger to sign it. Avila responded saying it would be a neat thing, and soon enough, was contacted by Dodgers staffers to have the ball (marked and authenticated by Major League Baseball officials) sent to the Los Angeles clubhouse for the Japanese star to sign.

“No shot,” Avila said if asked if he would’ve sought out Ohtani to sign the ball for him if it weren’t for the reporter asking him the question. “For me, I just think that's more out of respect for that player… But word got around to the clubbies in LA and they made it happen. 

“Like two days later or a day later or something like that, they showed me the ball in a case and I was like, ‘No way. Pretty sick.’ I have it up in my locker right now. I mean, I have the most respect for Ohtani now, not that I didn’t before, but I mean, that just makes me respect him even more.”

Avila said he’ll keep the ball forever and hand it down to his future children.

“I’m going to keep that home for myself,” he said. “You know, it’s all the years of hard work right there and I think, let alone getting it signed by Ohtani, I think that's just like a perfect thing to look at. I think that's definitely something that's probably going to be passed down to my kids… That’s a family thing that’s getting passed down.”

In attendance for his debut weekend was Avila’s parents and fiancé. It was a moment he didn’t take for granted considering several ballplayers are unable to have family fly or drive in on time for games.

“It meant the world to me,” he said. “My fiancé and my parents, those are the people who've got me here whether it was them supporting me growing up, taking me to all those little league games, travel ball tournaments and taking time out of their life and day, driving Arizona booking, staying in hotels. All  that stuff. And then my fiancé going through rookie ball, Double-A, traveling with me through all those levels and going through like the call-ups and everything. Definitely, I wanted to share that moment with them too. And I think that definitely meant a lot to them.”

Avila had his second career appearance Saturday with scoreless eighth and ninth innings against the San Diego Padres in the Giants’ 4-0 loss at Oracle Park. The pair of innings marked his third straight scoreless inning, which he says has taken his confidence to a whole new level.

“Becoming a big leaguer, you've worked your whole life (for it). It's definitely a great feeling. I think I had that instant reality of being a big leaguer(by)having my debut at Dodger Stadium in front of 45,000 people. It sort of hits you right away… But I tell myself, ‘I'm here to play baseball, and I'm here to do whatever I can to help the team win.’ So I sort of settled back into (the mindset that) this is my job and this is baseball,” Avila said.

“At the end of the day, no matter what level you're at, you got to be able to compete. It doesn't matter what the lineup is. Every hitter, they're up here (in the majors) for a reason. But my job is to go out there and put out zeros and pitch to my strengths and keep going with what's gotten me here. And if I need to adjust, I could do that too. But I’ll just keep doing me until the hitters maybe tell me otherwise.”