Kyle Hart got called into the manager's office at Pawtucket on Tuesday, and the news wasn't good -- Major League Baseball planned to fine him for not wearing a mask.
Manager Billy McMillon and pitching coaches Shawn Haviland and Paul Abbott waited a beat alongside farm director Ben Crockett. Then they broke the real news.
"I was a little worried at first," Hart said, "but then they told me, you can go pay your fine at Fenway Park tomorrow."
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And so it is that Hart, a 19th-round selection in the 2016 draft, will make his debut on Thursday when he starts the finale of a four-game set with the Rays.
It's the culmination of a journey that began in college at Indiana, where Hart spent five years, his career interrupted by Tommy John surgery. The 6-foot-5 lefty has never lit up radar guns or blown away scouts with his pure stuff, but he has gotten results at every stop along the way, posting a 3.13 ERA in 77 minor league appearances.
"My mindset going into tomorrow is the same as it has been my entire career," Hart said. "Every year, I started a level lower than what I thought I should be at. I thought I should be in Greenville, they started me in extended. I thought I should be in Salem, they started me in Greenville, and so on and so forth. This year I thought maybe I had a chance of starting with the big league team and they put me at the alternate site.
"Honestly, I appreciated it, because that's how every year has gone. And every year I've kind of sought out success. I'm comfortable in the position I'm in right now, of being a midseason callup, and kind of fulfilling that need. My mindset is they're giving me an opportunity tomorrow, I need to go pitch to earn another one. That's going to be my mindset as long as I play this game. Hopefully you look back and you've got six, eight, 10 years in this league. Right now I need to go out and earn every single start, opportunity to pitch, whatever it is, every single night."
And guess what? He doesn't owe any fines.
"They told me that I was actually getting fined by Major League Baseball for not wearing my mask. That's kind of a real scenario that's going to happen and probably has happened," Hart said. "Luckily it was just a prank and they were pulling my leg."