NEW YORK – Jarren Duran wasn’t the only one to receive life-changing news on Wednesday.
Immediately after Duran got word that he was going to join the Red Sox in New York on Thursday, he called his parents, Octavio and Dena Duran. Elation and panic ensued.
“It was just an unbelievable feeling,” Octavio Duran said at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. “Words can’t explain what it feels like to get your son, all these years of working so hard to get to the highest level of baseball, it’s just a great accomplishment. I’m speechless.”
But while words may have eluded Octavio Duran, logistics could not. The Durans had expected that a call-up might be possible at some point in 2021 and had laid the groundwork to take time off from their jobs.
But even with that expectation, it’s still no small feat to organize a family traveling party – one that included Duran’s parents, two uncles, and his brother from Southern California jumping on a red-eye that landed at 6 a.m. on Thursday; his girlfriend flying in from Worcester on Wednesday night; and his agent, Barret Arthur, heading in from Chicago – to convene for the landmark event in New York.
Yet all made it, carried as much by adrenaline as by aircraft, prepared to see Jarren Duran make his much-anticipated big league debut Thursday night. Instead, they found out the deflating news – the game had been postponed after a half-dozen Yankees had tested positive for COVID-19. (Arthur landed in New York to the news of the postponement.)
The group recalibrated, meeting for dinner instead of at Yankee Stadium.
“It was like a rollercoaster. I was so pumped up, then he wasn’t going to play. It was just an up and down experience, an emotional rollercoaster,” said Octavio Duran. “We talked about just enjoying the moment, don’t let it get too big – just enjoy it. Slow the game down, and you’ll do great.”
Still, the one-day delay was hard enough. Then came the revelation that Jarren Duran would not be in the lineup Friday night with the Yankees featuring lefty Jordan Montgomery on the mound.
By that point, Octavio Duran admitted, he was getting stir crazy.
“But,” he added, “I was trying to relax as much as possible, staying cool and collected. I knew that things happen for a reason.”
The group concluded that there might be a benefit to the two days, which would give the prospect time to acclimate. All the same, the idea that his big league debut might occur off the bench introduces an added layer of stress to the occasion.
Mindful that Duran could pop out of the dugout as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner, the family felt compelled to remain glued to its seats.
“It was up and down, up and down all game,” said Octavio Duran. “In the seventh, I was going, ‘Is he going to pinch run?’ I’m looking in the bullpen to see if there’s a righty warming up thinking he might pinch-hit. It was a lefty and then [lefty Aroldis] Chapman came in and I said, ‘OK, he’s not playing today.’”
Finally, Saturday arrived. Two and a half days after their arrival in New York, the family arrived at Yankee Stadium with Duran in the lineup. Yet even then, the scheduled debut in a 7:15 p.m. game did not come without a hitch.
“The Yankees said rain delay – it didn’t rain!” Octavio Duran noted with disbelief.
But after 50 minutes of a dry delay, the teams took the field, with Jarren Duran trotting out to center in the bottom of the first. Finally, at 8:34 p.m., he came to the plate.
“I’m not even playing and I was all covered in sweat watching him,” said Octavio Duran.
Mercifully, Jarren Duran did not make his traveling party wait any longer. He jumped on the first pitch he saw from Gerrit Cole, a 95 mph fastball, and ripped a line drive to center for a single. The family exploded in joy.
“Watching that hit was unbelievable,” said Octavio Duran. “Words can’t explain what it feels like to get your son, all these years of working so hard to get to the highest level of baseball, it’s just a great accomplishment. It’s just … I’m speechless.”
That was the first of three plate appearances for Jarren Duran against Cole. The other two were similarly impressive, resulting in a full-count strikeout and a walk. Duran did not look awed by the moment.
“No fear. It’s just the way he is,” his father marveled. “Getting [the hit] out of the way, he can just have fun out there and enjoy it.”
The circumstances surrounding the game weren’t exactly part of a storybook script, but will make the game memorable: The downpour that took over the game in the middle innings, the heated exchange between left fielder Alex Verdugo and the Yankee Stadium fans – one that prompted Duran to come over from his position in center to intercede.
“My son goes over there and tells [Verdugo] to relax. It’s his first game ever!” said Octavio Duran. “I told my family – this is one for the records.”
On Sunday night, Duran had competitive at-bats throughout the night but ultimately went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in the Red Sox’ 9-1 loss to the Yankees. Though Duran was summoned to provide a spark, he’s still waiting to take part in a handshake line following a victory in a big league game in which he participated.
Still, for the Duran family, those details will fade in the memories of the whirlwind trip to New York. The visit will remain one to savor.
“What are the chances of a kid growing up reaching this level?” said Octavio Duran. “It’s awesome. I’m amazed. I’m overwhelmed. Growing up, I always told him, ‘Do your best. Work hard, work hard, keep your head down, and grind. Good things will happen.’ Good things happened.”
Duran’s traveling party will scatter on Monday morning. The sequence of events and the delays – and the adrenaline rush from the joy that was experienced – surely will leave the entire group exhausted, but without complaint.
“I’ll sleep when I get home,” laughed Octavio Duran.