After waiting 14 years to make his major league debut, needing a few more hours to soak it in won't be a problem for Mets pitcher Scott Rice.
"I'll be able to do that tonight and tomorrow and relish in it," Rice said Monday after throwing a perfect ninth inning in the Mets' 11-2 win over the Padres at Citi Field.
Rice, 31, struck out the first two big league batters he faced.
"Being with the team all through the spring, it just felt very comfortable," Rice said. "Obviously I had a little jitters just running out there, but once the batters get in, it's baseball. So I went out there and just tried to stay slow, stay relaxed."
Rice's career began when the Orioles selected him with the 44th pick in the 1999 draft, but it has been a long journey to finally getting the call-up. He signed minor league deals with the Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies and Cubs, as well as a deal with the Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks, before signing with the Mets as a minor league free agent in November.
Rice made the roster out of spring training, finally getting the opportunity he had been searching for. Monday, with the Mets leading by nine in the ninth, manager Terry Collins gave Rice his first taste of the big leagues. Rice struck out Nick Hundley and Cameron Maybin before retiring Will Venable on a grounder to second to close out the game.
"It's one of the great stories.," Collins said. "There's a guy after 14 years in the minor leagues, in his first outing, I just hope he absorbed it the whole thing. I just hope he stood for a second on that mound and that wind and just took a deep breath and said, 'OK, I'm here now, let's have some fun with it.'"
"And of course he had a nice inning, too. I'm real proud of him. That's a great deal what he's gone through and you saw what he did. He can get some ground balls, and that's what he gets for us."
Rice had family in attendance Monday and said he plans to give the game ball to his father, Dennis, who has a display case full of balls from the leagues that Rice has pitched in. Rice saw his father during the national anthem and as the team walked off the field, and appreciated him being there.
"My dad has been the reason why I played baseball growing up. He basically taught me the fundamentals and everything I know about baseball," Rice said. "He's the guy I called when I had a bad outing. He's the first call after every outing. It's nice that he was able to be there. It's just as rewarding for him as it is for me."