Rain is an annoying but not uncommon obstacle to playing games in baseball. It can wipe out entire games and starts, make for some funny rain delay moments or even affect a World Series. It is the most common weather delay, and I'm not sure a random rainout in September of 2006 meant all that much to the Philadelphia Phillies or their fans. The Phillies, while good, had fleeting chances to make the postseason. They were getting set to take on the Houston Astros on September 5 after rain had affected their entire previous series against the Atlanta Braves, a series that featured a pair of doubleheaders.
However, that rainout meant everything for Brian Mazone, who had his lifelong dream washed away in Philadelphia that evening.
Brian Mazone started as an amateur free agent in the Atlanta Braves system after spending time at the University of San Diego. After a poor showing at A-Level Eugene, he was released after just one season and a 5.53 ERA at 21 years old.
He spent time at the spring training sites of two different teams before playing in independent leagues with the Zion Pioneerzz and Joliet JackHammers. With the JackHammers, he led the league in starts, innings and strikeouts and earned himself a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was sent to the Class-A High Desert Mavericks, where an 0-7, 9.31 ERA performance earned him another release. He returned to Joliet, where he hunkered down for the remainder of the season.
He continued to dominate at Joliet, leading the Northern League in ERA and shutouts, getting another MiLB chance with the San Francisco Giants, where he finally had a solid showing, pitching to a sub-4 ERA in both seasons in the Giants' system. He signed another minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he finally found success.
MOST SPECTACULAR PITCHER IN TRIPLE-A
Starting the season in Double-A, things finally seemed to be going right for Mazone, who pitched to a 2.39 ERA at Reading and then absolutely dominated at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 13-3 with a 2.03 ERA. For that, he was selected as the "Most Spectacular Pitcher in Triple-A" by Minor League Baseball for the 2006 season and also opened some eyes in Philadelphia. On a roster that featured future big leaguers Carlos Ruiz, Gavin Floyd and Michael Bourn, Mazone was the keynote piece at age 29.
RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY
While he wasn't recalled initially with the September call-ups, it was only a matter of time before the Phillies needed a starter. Their first September series with Atlanta was marred by rain as the first game was rescheduled for the second day of games. With the Phillies' pitching staff beleaguered, they needed a starter for their series opener against the Astros, and while Randy Wolf was that day's scheduled starter, Mazone received a phone call that he was to be called up to start after preparing to start that day in Triple-A. He was issued no. 49 and was slated to face off against Andy Pettitte, which is a marquee pitcher to be facing in his major league debut.
The wait was finally over for Mazone. After battling through rough seasons, releases and getting passed up, Mazone's opportunity was finally here, and then it wasn't.
Nearly 2.5 inches of rain fell in Philadelphia that night, and as Mazone came out of the dugout a few hours before first pitch, he only could watch as the dugout was flooded and water was pooling in the outfield. All he could do was watch as the rain picked up in intensity and washed away his dream. The game was postponed and rescheduled for later in the month and Mazone returned to pitch for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the playoffs with the Phillies instead deciding to pitch Randy Wolf the next night to not skip a spot in the rotation and never formally adding him to the roster.
"That's a tough thing to shake," Mazone said. "I was getting called up by the Phillies in 2006 to make a start [replacing Randy Wolf], and the game got rained out and they sent me back down without activating me. Randy came up to me here and apologized. Not that he did anything wrong, he just felt bad."
The next night, Randy Wolf took the mound and pitched six innings of two-run ball, dueling with Andy Pettitte as Ryan Madison blew the game in the ninth inning. His rescheduled game was also started by Randy Wolf on September 25, featuring 16 total pitchers in a 5-4 Houston win, none of them Mazone. Neither starter lasted through the sixth inning.
Charlie Manuel expressed remorse for the 30-year-old as well.
"This kid, he's had a big season. I'm sure it's disappointing to him. He'll eventually get a shot. He'll eventually get to pitch a game."
Mazone was sent back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and never made Manuel's prediction come true, only watching as the Phillies went on to win the division in 2007, World Series in 2008 and National League Championship in 2009 and fading out of baseball by 2011. Imagine if Mazone had gotten to pitch in that fateful night in 2006 and dominated, maybe he would have been a part of those celebrations. For now, however, he is barely a footnote in baseball history.
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