By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
With two games left in the regular season and the wild card on the line, the Boston Red Sox turned to Erik Bedard on Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles. The 32-year-old took the mound with his characteristically calm demeanor, just like he had been doing this all his life.
The truth is, though, Bedard didnt begin playing baseball until he was a teenager and, after only a few years, his career nearly came to an end after high school.
One phone call transformed the future of a computer science student into the Red Sox starting pitcher in a critical September win.
Canada is a hockey country. Bedard knew the popularity of the sport when he began playing softball at a young age in Navan, Ontario and switched to baseball as a teen. He also knew there were no high school teams to play and landing a professional career would be a challenge with the lack of recruiting in his town.
The only fans at his games, he said, were the parents.
Bedard didnt take to hockey the way he took to baseball growing up. He played it recreationally -- Every little town has an outdoor rink, he told CSNNE.com -- but baseball was a more feasible option. Besides, he loved pitching.
Baseball was fun, said Bedard, whose father worked as an elevator mechanic and mother did administrative work for a Senate member. Hockey was too expensive, so baseball was pretty cheap. If you want to play hockey competitively, its a lot of money. The equipment is super expensive.
Bedard played summer league ball through high school. College was the next natural step, and he enrolled at La Cit collgiale in Ottawa to study computers. At that time computers had boomed, he explained.
While his love for baseball was still there, the opportunities to play professionally were not.
I didnt give it up, it was over, he said. Youve got to move on after a while. I live in Canada. If it was a hockey thing I would have kept going because theres a lot of scouts at home for hockey, theres a lot of teams, and theres a lot of leagues. Baseball, after 18, its just mens league. You just go drink beer and play mens league (laughs) . . . Go to school, get a job like normal people.
Bedard settled into the college life. In his first fall semester, though, he received intriguing news from a friend. There was be a chance to play baseball again in Norwalk, Connecticut.
The guy that owns the this baseball facility at home, his son went to Norwalk Community College, he said. The coach from that college called the facility and asked if he had a catcher. One of my good friends was a catcher and he told me about it. I said, Just ask the coach if I can go throw a bullpen. If he likes it, Ill consider playing there. If he doesnt, it doesnt really matter. Ill just go there for fun.
I tried out and he said, If you want, you can come play.
That trip to New England began a seven-year major-league career. The Baltimore Orioles selected Bedard in the sixth round of the 1999 amateur draft. Three years later, he made his Major League Debut with the Os and made a permanent spot for himself in 2004.
Bedard was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2008 and, after more than three seasons on the West Coast, he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox in July.
I just feel fortunate and lucky that I made it where I have, he said. When I was young, it was a dream, but I never thought I would get to where Im at. So Im really fortunate and I try not to take it for granted.
Now a starting pitcher in one of the biggest markets in baseball, Bedard isnt one to showboat under the bright lights of Fenway Park. He is more concerned with letting his play do the talking rather than making a name for himself in the media.
I just got taught by my dad, everything you do act like youve done it before, he said. And thats what Ive been doing my whole life. You always have some guys that think theyre better than other people and I just didnt want people to think that. Ive always been humble. Thatll never change.
What he does hope will change, however, are the results at the end of the season. After spending many years on the losing side, he looks forward to experiencing victory with the Red Sox.
Its always fun to succeed and have everybody behind you, he said. Especially being in a team game, seeing everybodys faces after you win and everybodys happy. When we were in Baltimore and Seattle we always lost, so this is way better.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA.