Braden's grandmother put him on right track
Perfect pitcher's closest relative steered him toward success
OAKLAND -- Dallas Braden's undying love for his hometown of Stockton, Calif., extends much farther than the rather large "209" tattoo inked across his midsection honoring the city's area code, and is exemplified by his closest relative.
That much has been evident by his numerous volunteer efforts in the Stockton community, where he still calls home just five blocks from his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey -- the selfless woman who raised Braden by herself following his mother's death when he was in high school.
On Sunday, he took that love and shared it with several fellow Stockton natives by offering them a special ticket deal in Section 209 at the Oakland Coliseum, where fans from his hometown and surrounding areas -- including his grandmother -- cheered him on against the visiting Rays.
Braden plans on extending the half-price discount ($12) for a handful of games he pitches in this year, but it's safe to assume none of those will amount to the historic measures that came out of Sunday's outing.
The A's lefty tossed just the 19th perfect game in Major League history in a 4-0 victory over the Rays, who entered the series with baseball's best record. It also marked Braden's first career complete game and the sixth no-hitter in Oakland history.
To be able to do it not only in front of Lindsey on Mother's Day but in the presence of those who surrounded his upbringing made an already perfect day "pretty cool," Braden admitted with a smile.
"I didn't know that today was going to be the first day of the ticket deal until earlier this week," he said. "Everything like that coming together in my mind, it's something that I never thought I'd be a part of in terms of big league baseball -- that I'm going to have this section of mine for people to sit in, and that I'm going to be toeing the rubber on Mother's Day with everything we've gone through. So in that respect, it's pretty special."
The city of Stockton likely feels the same way -- especially considering the roller-coaster ride that has been Braden's life. Long before making a name for himself wearing a Major League uniform, Braden didn't exactly pave a path for himself to succeed at all, let alone as a professional baseball player.
As a student at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, Braden found himself kicked off the baseball team during his freshman and junior years for not making grades and "doing other stuff." He mentioned he missed 79 of 81 days during a quarter in his junior year, a point during which Lindsey put a stop to all the nonsense.
"I veered off enough to only play two years of high school baseball," he said. "I was not doing what I should have been doing when I should have been doing it. I was doing pretty much everything in my power to take every opportunity that my mother and grandmother have given me away. But she wasn't going to let that happen.
"My grandmother just made it very clear to me that all the sacrifices my mom had made and that she had made and the life that we had led up till that point was all to get me on the baseball field and to keep me out of jail. ... She made it very clear like, 'This is what we're going to do.' She didn't leave an option."
Thus, Braden quit his trips to Chico, where he had friends at the school he deemed "a pretty cool party college." Rather, he took to the diamond again and eventually ended up at American River College and Texas Tech University before being selected by the A's in the 24th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Braden spent four years in Oakland's Minor League system, including a stint for his hometown Stockton Ports in 2005 and '06, before making his Major League debut in '07 in Baltimore, where Lindsey sat in the stands just as she does at every home game.
It was no different on Sunday, when she arrived at the Coliseum for a tailgate at 9 a.m. on Mother's Day.
"It's very exciting," she said. "We had a lot of friends with us from Stockton visiting today. ... Dal and I are really close. We've been close since Dallas was born."
Following Braden's historic performance, Lindsey said she planned to celebrate with her grandson back in Stockton, where the two are so much more than just neighbors.
"It's phenomenal having her so close," Braden said. "Any time she needs anything or any time I start to worry, I can go over there or she can come over to me. We've got over 30 close, close, close-knit friends -- when I say close, I mean 30 people that I can leave my house to and would not have a problem with it. It's not just neighbors, these are people that I've grown up with, and so she's got a pretty big network. They were all here."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.