Overcome with emotions upon learning of his major league callup, San Diego Padres’ pitcher Eric Yardley knows precisely what it means to play at the highest level of professional baseball.
It was late August when Eric Yardley and his wife of three years, Tia, returned to their apartment in El Paso after a Chihuahuas’ game. The phone rang just after they arrived. The couple came home that evening to let their dog out and eat a post-game meal. Eric picked up the phone and noticed immediately that the call was from Puerto Rico. It seemed strange, but Yardley answered the phone.
On the other end was his manager with El Paso, Edwin Rodriguez. The longtime baseball coach asked the pitcher what his plans were for the next day. Yardley seemed confused as Rodriguez then told him to cancel the plans- “the San Diego Padres need you in Cincinnati tomorrow.” As the reality of what he was said, hit him- tears began rolling down his face. His loving wife sat next to him with a great understanding of what was happening. She could not be more proud.
Yardley blanked out on what the manager was telling him about travel plans and such. He immediately began to think of his wife, his family, and all the work he went through to get to this point. More tears came. He did it. Eric Yardley would be a major league pitcher. “When I got the call, it was an emotional time. I immediately started tearing up,” Yardley remembers. “You work so hard for something that probably wasn’t going to come, or at least that was the vibe,” Yardley explains about his journey.
It wasn’t just the 12-hour minor league bus rides and long, arduous days training that fueled his emotions. The right-handed pitcher went undrafted out of college despite generating some buzz at Seattle University, where he saved 11 games his senior year. Despite the disappointment of the draft, he drove from Washington all the way to New Mexico after going unsigned. He made one last attempt to keep his baseball career going, and his family fully supported him in his quest. That trip to play Independent Ball in Taos is what ultimately led to the Padres signing the pitcher in late 2013.
The side-armed pitcher has had to ignore criticism his whole life. His unorthodox pitching mechanics are certainly not something you would teach your son, but it works for him. He gets results with the motion (2.90 career ERA in over 415 minor league innings), and in this day and age of high-velocity pitcher, Yardley is the change of pace hitters hate to face.
After allowing three earned runs in his first three innings pitched, Yardley made eight straight appearances without allowing a runner to score. His ERA is finished at 2.31 in his first 11 2/3 innings pitched as a major leaguer — a very successful rookie season.
“Family is a huge piece for my wife and me,” Yardley first explained about his 2019 season. The 29-year-old has been through much in his baseball journey. It was challenging to remain positive and keep going, but he had fuel. “My family was a huge piece of it and the love of the game I have. Kowing that every day could be the last one, kept me focused and wanting to be in this clubhouse,” Yardley said as he stood next to his major league locker. “I love the game so much. Striving to be the best I can be is what kept me going.”
There is no lack of confidence when it comes to Yardley. He knows he belongs, and if you ask him, he will tell you that he has plenty of innings left in his right arm. “I love to compete. I feel I am one of the most versatile relievers in our system,” the pitcher said while calmly sipping a hot tea. “I get to play a game for a living. The bus rides are miserable, and the flights are early, but the whole goal is to get here and play against the best in the world. There are other guys with my story. One standing right behind you,” Yardley said, motioning towards Seth Mejias-Brean, whose locker was right next to the pitchers in the Padres clubhouse. He has a great understanding of where he is as a pitcher. Yardley will never take anything for granted, as nothing in the game was handed to him. He had to earn it. The players certainly respect that.
The butterflies were there in his major league debut with the Padres. He calmed himself after a few times on the mound as he rationalized his whole experience. “I build it up in my head so much. What you have done and created as a career works here. Once you sit back and realize that- you are freed up inside and it allows you to play baseball the same way you have always done,” Yardley explains about how he was able to slow the game down and succeed in his last eight appearances in the major leagues.
The more you talk to Eric Yardley, the more impressed you become. His pitching style could be very useful in a bullpen full of hard throwers like the Padres presently have. Only time will tell what the future holds for Eric Yardley, but one thing is for sure- his baseball career has been a success. The pitcher knows what it means to be a major league player. Hopefully, his ideology will be embraced by all.
“Being the best you can is what it means to be a big leaguer.”