SAN FRANCISCO -- When a rookie is called up for the first time, the Giants go to great lengths to make sure family members and friends are flown into town in time for his debut. The clubhouse staff is diligent about collecting scorecards and baseballs and anything else that might later get signed by 24 other guys and presented to the player.
There's a reason for all of that. It's a huge moment, the culmination of a lifelong dream. Sometimes that dream never fully gets reached, though.
Clayton Blackburn, a former top Giants prospect, announced his retirement through an Instagram post this week. It must have been tough news for a lot of Giants employees to hear, because while Blackburn was called up for four days in 2016, he never actually got into a game. Blackburn, 26, wrote that after repeated setbacks following Tommy John surgery, he is retiring to "work on being a great father and husband."
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As a little boy my first memories are playing baseball in my front yard by myself all day long in the middle of the summer and dreaming of putting on a major league uniform under the lights. Fast forward 20 years later and that dream was becoming a reality with the @sfgiants and those 4 days I was there was filled with joy and pride but ultimately didn’t get a chance to get into a game. 1 year later I got the phone call again but this time with the @rangers (my childhood favorite team) I was literally living out a dream!! Unfortunately after 3 days I was sent back down and the next spring training tore my UCL and missed the rest of the season. After a year and a half of rehab and continuous set backs I have decided to move on and retire and work on being a great father and husband!!! I can’t thank all the people that have supported me from start to finish enough but from the bottom of my heart thank you!
The Giants drafted the right-hander in 2011 and he seemed to be ready for a breakout four years later when he posted a 2.85 ERA in Triple-A. Blackburn was called up May 12 the next year with the bullpen needing a fresh arm, but the four starters in that series -- including Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, who were near the end of the line -- ended up combining for 28 innings. Blackburn was optioned out before the next series as George Kontos came off the DL.
"You always feel bad that you couldn't bring him in, especially with all the family and friends there," manager Bruce Bochy said at the time. "But that's just the way it played out. Jake and Matt threw so well. (Blackburn) even said, 'That's a good thing.'"
Unfortunately, the same thing happened to Blackburn a year later when he was traded to the Rangers. They called him up in July but he didn't get onto the field in three days. Blackburn signed a minor league deal with the Reds last December but never fully made it back.