Pitcher handles life's curveballs
July 23, 2014 at 2:23 a.m.
Updated July 24, 2014 at 2:24 a.m.
Randy Boone remembers the days he dreamed about being a pitcher.
He remembers the times he would spend in the backyard, trying to imitate how his hero, Nolan Ryan, pitched for his favorite team, the Houston Astros.
"I grew up a huge Astros fan and a Nolan Ryan fan," Boone said. "Grandpa always had the Astros game on at night.
"Every pitching video he had, I owned," he added. "I'd be sitting up with Mom and Dad watching the game or a Nolan Ryan video and taking that in the backyard, trying to copy as much as I can. Growing up, that's all I did."
Of course, it was a plus that Ryan was born in Refugio.
"Every kid in Texas, at that point, wanted to grow up to be Nolan Ryan," he said. "Him being from the area was just a little something extra for me."
Boone is all grown up now, and at 29, the former Yoakum standout is in the midst of a successful career with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, a Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
This season, the righty has recorded nine saves and 31 strikeouts with a 2.48 ERA.
Just last week, Boone, who grew up in Hope, was named to the 2014 Eastern League All-Star team.
It was the second all-star selection for the University of Texas graduate. His first selection came when he played for the Lansing Lugnuts, the Blue Jays' Class-A affiliate, in 2008.
"Being selected validates the hard work and the up-and-downs the last couple of years," said Boone, who was part of the Longhorns' 2005 World Series championship. "You don't take anything like that for granted. It was a tremendous experience. It was definitely an honor."
Boone has spent his entire career playing for the Blue Jays, ever since he got drafted in the seventh round in 2007.
He has made appearances in Class-A Advanced with the Dunedin Blue Jays and got promoted to Triple A with the Las Vegas 51s.
The journey hasn't always been smooth for Boone, who began his pro career as a starter then transitioned to a reliever in 2012 after an elbow injury the year before.
"With the injury sometimes, when you're down, you kind of wonder if you can still do it," added Boone. "Any sign of adversity, injury struggles, stuff like that, always creeps in about how it can get back to where it was, or if I can still do this. But you have to have faith in yourself and the support system around you."
Boone said it took him 18 months to completely recover from Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow.
The switch from starter to reliever, however, wasn't entirely new for Boone.
"In college, I started for a little bit and closed for a little bit," he said. "I just show up from year to year, show up in shape to start. Having that versatility is almost like being a utility player. I just show up every day; it's the attitude I've taken - unless my arm won't allow me to pitch that day."
Early in July, Boone earned his first win of the season, moving him into second place in franchise history for wins.
"It's always cool to be at the top of the list," said Boone. "At the same time, it means you're performing well and doing well where you are."
Nowadays, Boone is enjoying his success in the league, but he still wonders every so often.
"You wonder if your arm would've stayed healthy and what could've happened," he said. "I was 26 at the time of the injury, and it was a bad year to miss from a career standpoint. But it's part of the game. Health plays a big part in it.
"Physically, I feel fine," he added. "I'm going to continue playing for as long as I can. Ultimately, the big leagues or Japan (is my goal), but it's kind of out of my control as far as offers. So I just try to perform, and we'll see how it goes."
Boone credits the support he's gotten from his parents, Dwayne and Annette Boone, of Hope, and his wife of almost a year, Whitney.
"My parents have been nothing but supportive from Day 1," said Boone. "They've really been supportive and happy that I'm healthy, I'm doing what I want to do and enjoying it and having success at it.
"It's good to have Whitney along. I've enjoyed having her here, and she's enjoyed being around," said Boone, who lives in Manchester, N.H. "My in-laws have been nothing but supportive as well. Having family around is always good. We are extremely lucky to have a supportive family."
In the offseason, Boone said he spends his time back home with family and the Yoakum high school baseball team and coaches.
He tries to be a role model to many kids, not just athletes.
"If there are kids in Yoakum or even in the area who are going to a good college and furthering their career," he said, "and if there are kids that are looking at me, and want to say they want to do that, then that's great."
His advice for them?
"Hard work can pay off and be respectable," he said. "If you do all the things right that you're supposed to be doing, it's going to go a long way."