Star born on game's biggest stage
By Corey Gottlieb / MLB.com
There were those who believed it was a move with potentially disastrous repercussions.
With the bases loaded and two men out in the eighth inning, the eclectic skipper for the Cinderella team called on the unproven prospect to shut down the reigning World Series champions.
It was a decision that had "Byung-Hyun Kim" -- the Arizona closer who served up a few back-breaking homers to the Yankees in the 2001 World
Series -- written all over it.
Enter David Price, a gangly left-hander with limbs a bit too long for his uniform and a flat-brimmed hat shoved a bit too far down on his forehead. Cue the fate of Tampa Bay baseball in the form of a kid from Murfreesboro, Tenn., this 23-year-old with all of 14 regular-season frames under his belt and the burden of future greatness anchored to his back like a cartoon anvil.
Strike up the dueling violins, and call it a moment of cinematic hyperbole.
Five batters, four outs and one giant pig-pile later, the drama had subsided and in its place stood a confident young man who had just notched his first career save on the biggest stage imaginable.
"I wanted the ball," said Price. "Everybody in that 'pen wanted the ball."
Such is the desire that has fueled Price since his earliest days: want the ball, first, and finish the job, second. It is an oddly intuitive passion, an unteachable inclination rarely coupled with above-average natural talent.
And talent has never been lacking for the left-hander, who clearly possessed something special even as a teenager. In middle school, Price would pitch to his father, Bonnie, who used a bucket to play catch but eventually gave up after the sessions left his legs coated with bruises.
"He'd throw for 40 minutes and still not get tired," Bonnie told USA Today. "He kept throwing harder and harder."
And harder, and harder, and harder; as Price grew, so did both the velocity on his fastball and his drive to do great things. An All-American at Blackman High School in 2004, he never lacked for inspiration, following closely the early-'90s achievements of Braves southpaws Tom Glavine and Steve Avery.
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In truth, though, Price's work ethic was cultivated by his parents. Bonnie worked for years at a CVS drug-store warehouse, while his mother, Debbie, is the vice president of a healthcare company. The couple has always resided in Murfreesboro with their two other sons, Jackie and Damon, a factor that influenced David's decision to attend college at nearby Vanderbilt University.
Price was a homebody, but he was also a rising star on the national scene. He posted an 11-1 record with a 2.63 ERA as a junior, then went 5-1 with a microscopic 0.20 mark for the U.S. national team. Numbers like those don't remain unnoticed, and he would soon earn recognition as one of the country's most promising arms.
What followed has been well documented: A meteoric rise through the Rays' farm system earned Price a postseason roster slot and a chance to live up to the hype.
And so he has. As his Game 7 performance made clear, David Price has the stuff to succeed for a long, long time. Byung-Hyun Kim he most certainly is not.
Corey Gottlieb is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.