Imperfect start won't deter Humber, wife

Unlike his previous start, Phil Humber labored to get through five innings on Thursday. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

CHICAGO -- Kristan Humber was so excited for her husband Philip Humber’s return home Tuesday she tracked the Chicago White Sox’s plane from Oakland to Chicago on her computer.

A lot had happened since Kristan last saw Humber before he departed for a six-game West Coast trip the previous Thursday. Most notably, he had thrown the 21st perfect game in major league baseball. Kristan watched the game from home because she is expecting on May 8.

“I called him, and he didn’t answer,” Kristan recounted their reunion on Thursday. “All of a sudden, I sort of heard the door click, and he walked in. I was sitting there writing thank-you cards for a baby shower I had just been given. I just walked over to him and gave him a hug. You could tell he was drained. Like it had been a whole lot of fun, but he was physically and mentally just drained.”

From the perfect game to the endless amount of congratulatory texts and phone calls -- Kristan’s phone even froze because of the barrage -- to the numerous media requests to six days on the road to him returning to the mound Thursday, it’s a week their first-born child will hear plenty of.

While Humber’s story of Saturday’s perfect game has been told over and over again already, Kristan’s tale from her perspective of that unforgettable experience is just as entertaining.

“I’m not very superstitious, but for some reason in that game I got a little superstitious,” Kristan said from a suite in U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday. “I didn’t want to move out of my spot very much. When it got to the ninth inning is when it kind of hit me, you know. When he was 3-0 on the first hitter, that’s when I broke out into a sweat. I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, it can’t end on that note.”

And then Humber struck out the Seattle Mariners’ Brendan Ryan on an outside pitcher, catcher A.J. Pierzynski chased down the drop-third strike and tossed the ball to first baseman Paul Konerko for the game’s final out.

Humber was mobbed his teammates, and Kristan, well, she …

“I can’t jump up and down,” she said. “It’s not very healthy. But I did sit in front of the TV and cry like somebody told me that my family member died. You don’t see one of those moments very often in your life especially for someone you really care about. And with his career path (from first-round pick to Tommy John surgery), it’s a pretty awesome day. It was pretty surreal.”

Humber called Kristan within 10 minutes of the game’s final pitch.

“He called and I answered the phone and I said, ‘Hey,’” Kristan said. “He went, ‘Heyyyyy,’ and he was just silent. I said, ‘How do you feel?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I think he was almost numb.”

As crazy and wonderful as the week was, Kristan said they were now ready to move on from it all.

“He actually said (Wednesday), ‘I’m good now,’” Kristan said. “‘We don’t have to talk about the game anymore.’ He’s like I got to focus on my next start. He said that’s what’s important.

“Not for someone like him (will this change his life.) He’s very mellow and down to earth. Nothing in his mind has really changed.”

If Humber wasn’t back to reality by Thursday evening, the Boston Red Sox brought him there with their bats. The Red Sox broke his perfect streak by taking a leadoff walk in the first inning, and that was just the start. When they were done with him, Humber had allowed a career-high nine runs. He also gave up eight hits, three home runs and six walks.

On Thursday, Humber threw 115 pitches in five innings. In his perfect game, he had thrown a total of 96 pitches in nine innings.

“This game will humble you,” Humber said after the loss. “It’s one of those things that will make you feel good one day and real bad the next. You have to take it as its own game. Saturday was one game and today was one game, so I will keep working and keep battling and maybe next time will be better.”

Kristan expected Humber to be disappointed about his tough outing for a few days, but she knew he would move on from it. He’s learned to deal with such frustrating games easier over the years, especially since his Christian faith has grown stronger.

When asked if Kristan had anything to add about her husband before she returned her eyes to him on the field Thursday, she felt there was one more important thing to mention.

“I think really what’s important if he wanted anybody to know something – it’s obviously to get (hit) in the head three times by line drives (during his career), you have to be physically tough,” she said. “But to succeed in this kind of game, you have to be mentally, very mentally tough. I know I may be biased because I’m wife – and I totally get that comment – but I think if kids are looking for a role model, you’ve generally found one in him for your kids to look up to.”