Ryan Lillie grew up in Temecula, which is right in between San Diego and Los Angeles. When anyone asks him where he’s from, he tells them America’s Finest City, which sometimes causes a little rift between his parents.
“My dad is a Dodgers fan and my mom is a Padres fan. She grew up in Grossmont,” says Lillie, who grew up diplomatically rooting for the Angels. “It’s kind of a split household right now. My dad has to really try to wear the brown and gold with pride so it hurts him a little bit.”
But, that’s what parents do for their kids. Lillie is a pitcher in the Padres organization, and this week he became part of a historic run. The Double-A San Antonio Missions pitching staff threw not one, but two no-hitters in the span of three games.
The first one came on Sunday, when four pitchers … Lake Bachar, Moises Lugo, Carlos Belen, and Kevin Kopps … threw nine hitless innings against Arkansas. After the final out most of the dugout erupted, but some of the Missions didn’t realize what had just transpired.
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Lillie was in the bullpen watching and was definitely NOT one of them.
“I’m a scoreboard watcher sometimes when I’m not pitching so I saw it right away. I go, that’s a big old zero right there in the middle,” says Lillie. “But there were some guys who had no idea. But, it was awesome to get that first one. I’ve never been a part of one before, even just on a team that threw a no-hitter. The clubhouse afterwards was unbelievable. I remember sitting there thinking I was a little jealous that I wasn’t a part of it. But, at the same time, I was like this is awesome.”
Lillie’s turn came, surprisingly, just three days later.
The scheduled starter came down with food poisoning so Ryan was pressed into an unexpected start. He threw 4.0 innings of no-hit ball, going one inning more than his coaches were hoping for. He never thought he’d just set off another no-no.
“I went inside, did my arm care, changed, got my water, all that good stuff, and I sat on the couch (in the clubhouse) with the TV on watching the game. We were hitting again and there was still a zero on the board. In the back of my head I was like, something might be going on again. I didn’t want to pull up the box score yet and see.”
Michel Baez, who’s recovering from Tommy John surgery and just got to San Antonio on his rehab assignment, struck out five in two innings and Osvaldo Hernandez followed with another hitless frame. That’s when Lillie’s curiosity got the best of him. He checked the box score.
“And I go: you’ve gotta be kidding me? I sat in that same spot the rest of the game and the next thing you know we’re celebrating in the clubhouse again.”
Baseball superstitions are legendary and there is no way Lillie was going to run the risk of missing out on another no-hitter.
“I’m a firm believer in superstition. There are some guys who are like, you can do whatever you want it’s not gonna change what’s gonna happen. I’m like, don’t even talk to me about that. I’m very superstitions. I was sitting next to somebody who wasn’t playing and he said he was going to go outside and I almost had to tell him, like, sit back down. He was one of those guys who didn’t believe in it so I was like, if they get a hit, this is on you.”
Luckily, Ryan’s adherence to tradition was enough to overcome the bad juju. He didn’t leave the couch until Mason Fox had recorded that final out.
“It was just awesome. It’s a really cool feeling to contribute.”
After the first no-hitter Missions manager Phillip Wellman told the group to enjoy it because they don’t happen very often. On Wednesday his message didn’t change all that much.
“He goes guys, this doesn’t happen very often so enjoy it. He goes this is unbelievable.”
Keep in mind, that 2nd no-no gave Wellman his 1,290th career win as a minor league skipper. To do something not even a baseball lifer like that has ever seen is incredible.
“I was talking to my dad and I go, I can’t even imagine how many ballgames Welly has been a part of and for him to come in and say I’ve never seen anything like this before, it’s something special.”
I’m looking forward to the day we get to see this group try and do the same thing at Petco Park.
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