05/13/2008 1:00 PM ET
Tim Byrdak: Wife is mom, motivator
Astros pitcher's wife has been ballast throughout career
My wife, Heather, deserved a special Mother's Day. Not only does she look after our four children, but she's also been a motivating voice in my career.
Heather is anything but ordinary. She's the driving force behind our family. She's made personal sacrifices just to give me the ability to pursue a career in baseball. She worked two jobs while she was pregnant with our second child and I was playing independent ball. She does such a great job with our four kids. Sometimes I wonder how she does it.
Heather always tells me she would never let me use her or our kids as an excuse to quit baseball and that I can quit on my own terms once my career is over. She's an amazing woman.
It hasn't been easy, either. I made by big league debut with the Royals in 1998 and played parts of three seasons with Kansas City, but a few years later, following an arm injury, I found myself working the night shift at a local Target.
I applied for the job when we went to the store to pick up some things and noticed the job opening sign. We thought the hours would fit well with the kids' schedule. Noticing the big league service on my application, my future boss didn't think I was serious at first. But I told him we had bills to pay. I grinded it out for 6-8 months, and I worked with people who work really hard.
To get back to the Majors I've had to scratch and claw. In 1997, Dr. Frank Jobe told me I needed ligament replacement surgery in my elbow. I hadn't blown my arm out or anything but there was so much in the joint that wasn't structurally sound that I needed the surgery.
Unfortunately, I decided to scope it instead. But without the stability in the joint, I couldn't be the consistent pitcher I needed to succeed at this level. During this time, I watched guys at the Minor League level make it to the big leagues and I was still scuffling. A large part of that was because the joint wasn't strong. Finally, in 2001, I blew out the elbow completely and had the surgery.
That was a point in my life when Heather and I really had to talk. We knew that 85 percent of pitchers come back from ligament replacement surgery and pitch normally, but I didn't want to be part of that other 15 percent. We decided I wouldn't end my career on a failing note, which meant working at Target to keep the bills paid while trying a comeback in independent ball.
The most satisfying phone call I ever got came in 2005 when the Orioles called me up. Even though I had pitched in the Majors before, this meant more because of all the turmoil we'd gone through. It gave me goose bumps to say to Heather, "We did it. We're going to the big leagues." It still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. She cried and she's not ordinarily an emotional person.
It remains a battle to stay here. I've worked through some more injuries since then. But I'm that guy who always keeps fighting and fighting to stick around and stay. I'm fortunate to have had four chances at this level, but I also know that it wouldn't have happened without Heather's support and sacrifice.
Left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak is 1-0 and hasn't allowed a run in eight appearances since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock on April 20. He pitched parts of the past three seasons with Baltimore and Detroit. He got his first win in 2006 -- eight years after his Major League debut.