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Hernando native pitcher steps up to the big leagues

Bronson Arroyo, 23, will be the starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight. But his father won't be able to watch in person.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000

They have counted the seconds and the pitches to this moment for five years, but they won't be together to share it. Hernando High graduate Bronson Arroyo will become just the second player from this county to play in the major leagues as the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting pitcher tonight against the Atlanta Braves at Three Rivers Stadium.

Arroyo and his father, Gus, have been planning for this moment since he helped coach him as a Little Leaguer at Stringer Hill. Gus Arroyo never could have imagined he would have to watch the moment on television, but a degenerative kidney condition will prevent him from making the trip to Pittsburgh.

Arroyo, 23, was promoted from Triple A Nashville on Sunday afternoon when starting pitcher Jason Schmidt was placed on the disabled list. The third-round draft choice of the Pirates in the June 1995 draft was 7-2 with a 3.86 earned run average in 12 starts for Nashville.

Arroyo, who joins Mike Walker as Hernando County residents who have played in the majors, traveled Monday to join the Pirates in Pittsburgh before their three-game series with the Braves began. Arroyo, a right-hander, will face Braves veteran John Burkett at 7:05 tonight. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

Arroyo was told by manager Richie Hebner of his promotion on Sunday afternoon, an hour before he was to pitch at Colorado Springs.

"Richie said, "Stop, you're pitching against the Braves on Tuesday,' " Arroyo said. "I said, "Sweet!' "

Gus Arroyo, who is awaiting a kidney transplant, must use a dialysis machine every day. He has two sets of equipment and actually had sent one set to Nashville, where Bronson had been pitching for the Triple A Nashville Sounds of the Pacific Coast League. The elder Arroyo had been planning a trip there to see Bronson pitch and had sent his gear ahead.

With a little more time, Gus Arroyo could have had the equipment sent on to Pittsburgh, but the suitcase existence of baseball life will force him to watch it on television.

Bronson Arroyo's fiancee, Aimee Faught, and his agent will attend the game.

But neither father nor son see this as a sad story. The younger Arroyo perhaps is still in shock and his father is sure more chances are forthcoming.

Gus Arroyo already is planning for a possible second start, which could come Saturday or Sunday against Florida.

"We'll be there for the next one," Gus Arroyo said. "We wish we could, but it won't work out."

Bronson Arroyo, who had never been to a major-league game before suiting up for Pittsburgh last night, is eager for his father to see him pitch.

"He'll see me," he said. "There'll be more chances. He'll just miss the first one.

"I think he's been waiting for this longer than I have."

Tim Sims, who coached Arroyo as a junior and senior at Hernando, said not being there will be tough on both.

"Knowing how strong-willed an individual Gus is and how much he wants to be there, I know how difficult it is on him," he said. "I know it'll be difficult on Bronson as well. But I know there'll be a lot of folks tuned into the game on TV."

Arroyo, who will be the 20th pitcher used by the Pirates this season, is 56-30 in parts of six minor league seasons.

His son was typically low-key when he called Sunday with news of the promotion, the pitcher's father said.

"He never gets too ecstatic," Gus Arroyo said. "That's just him. He's been working for this day and we're all just glad it came about. He deserves it."

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