CINCINNATI -- On July 1, John Farrell took leave from his managerial post with the Boston Red Sox and flew to Kansas City to watch his son, Luke, make his major league debut. It was a day neither will forget.
But no father ever has watched his son pitch from the vantage point John Farrell had Saturday.
Watching from the visiting dugout along the third-base line in a 5-0 Red Sox win, John Farrell saw Luke toss a scoreless top of the ninth inning for the Cincinnati Reds. As Luke walked off the mound, his father saluted him with a slight tip of the cap.
"Somewhat surreal. Very proud," John Farrell said. "You're standing there, looking through a netting in the dugout, and you're thinking you're maybe watching him in Little League or high school or so many of the different stages. To see it happen on a major league mound, a special day, a special inning."
It was also historic.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time a pitcher had faced a team managed by his father in a major league game. It was the first time any player had faced his father's team since Moises Alou with the Chicago Cubs against Felipe Alou's San Francisco Giants in 2004.
"That's a lot of people that have played this game," said John Farrell, who had an eight-year major league career as a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, California Angels and Detroit Tigers. "If that's the first [pitcher-manager, father-son] combination, it's a proud day. But that makes it even that much more unique."
Luke Farrell's path to the majors was already singular in its challenges. In 2009, while John was working as the Red Sox pitching coach, doctors found a golf-ball-sized tumor in Luke's upper throat near his carotid artery. The tumor was removed, only to come back two years later. Another surgery followed, and during the recovery, Luke lost 25 pounds.
He eventually resumed playing baseball and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2013, the year John Farrell steered the Red Sox to a World Series title. Luke made his debut with the Royals in July but then bounced around to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finally to the Reds, for whom he has allowed three runs in eight innings over six relief appearances.
Earlier in the week, Reds manager Bryan Price told Luke that he likely would pitch in the series against the Red Sox. Luke and John had breakfast Friday and walked to the ballpark together. Father always knows best, of course, but John joked that the Red Sox "have a scouting report on [Luke], just like any other pitcher."
Still, nothing could quite prepare either for the emotions of competing against each other.
"A little added pressure, for sure," Luke said. "That's the first time we've been on the same field together. You want to do well for your team, obviously, but with your dad right there, you want to do a little bit better, I guess."
Luke Farrell opened the inning by striking out pinch hitter Sam Travis. Then he issued back-to-back walks to Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt. Andrew Benintendi, a native of suburban Cincinnati with a rooting section in left field, lined out to first baseman Joey Votto, whose errant throw to second allowed Bogaerts to advance to third. Then Mitch Moreland flied out to center field to end the inning.
"I'm sure it was a great memory," Price said. "I think it was important that Luke went in there and didn't give up any runs. That was equally important."
John Farrell stood frozen at the side of the Red Sox's dugout for most of the inning, his hands gripping the padded railing above his head. Luke admitted to peeking at his father before the inning began and not again until it was over.
"Once the inning started, I was trying to lock in and do my job," he said.
Said John Farrell: "There's a major conflict that's going on inside. You're always rooting for your own guys, but that's a unique arrangement right there. Hopefully there's some balls that were squared up to some players on our side to record some outs. Like I said, there's a lot of conflict internally right there."
When it was over, there was the hat-tip acknowledgment from father to son. After the game, of course, there were dinner plans at a restaurant in Cincinnati, with the topic of conversation sure to touch on a father-son event unlike any other in baseball history.
Said Luke Farrell, "Hopefully he's buying."