Brandon Matheny won 18 games over the course of four seasons pitching in the minor leagues, but a victory achieved on this date in 2002 probably stands alone as the most memorable.
Having a solid season for the High-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians in Kinston, North Carolina, the former Holston High School and Emory & Henry College star was summoned to his skipper’s office shortly after striding into the clubhouse at Grainger Stadium on a warm Wednesday afternoon.
“We typically showed up at the park around 1 p.m. during homestands and when I arrived, pitching coach Ruben Niebla called me in the office to meet with our manager Teddy Kubiak,” Matheny said. “I remember being nervous, because that’s not a typical request and you know, players do get cut midseason ... Luckily, it was good news.”
The Cleveland organization was putting the finishing touches on a major (and eventually lopsided) trade that saw the Indians send Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos for Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens.
With Drew unavailable to pitch for Class AAA Buffalo that evening in a road game against the Charlotte Knights, Matheny had to fill in. He also had to get moving.
“I grabbed my gear and went back to my apartment for a few change of clothes, although I remember not knowing how long I would be there,” Matheny said. “The drive is around four or five hours and the game started at 7 p.m. I don’t know exactly when I left, but I know I was hauling, because I was concerned the whole time about being late.”
Matheny’s first challenge in Class AAA came in getting through the gates of the stadium known as the Knights Castle in Fort Mill, South Carolina, where Charlotte played at the time.
“I don’t remember exactly when I got there, but I knew the game was already being delayed for rain,” Matheny said. “I remember parking out in the same lot where the fans parked and walking up to the ticket counter to try to get in. The team obviously rolled up in the bus hours prior and here I am trying to walk through the ticket gate with my gear bag. Looking back, that was a funny moment.”
Matheny made his way into the stadium and by the time the fourth inning rolled around he was on the mound, taking over for Dave Maurer in front of a crowd of 2,356.
Matheny allowed four runs on seven hits in four innings of work, while walking one and striking out one. Seven guys who had been in the big leagues or would eventually get there – Willie Harris, Tim Hummel, Joe Crede, Joe Borchard, Damon Buford, Anthony Sanders and Humberto Quintero – were in Charlotte’s lineup.
“I’d never spoken to the kid until he walked into my office before the game,” Buffalo manager Eric Wedge told the Charlotte Observer following the contest. “He did a heckuva job for his first time out there, especially considering he drove five hours to get here.”
Buffalo – which had eight future big-leaguers in its batting lineup – scored three times in the top of the eighth inning to take the lead for good. That team eventually reached the International League finals and Wedge was managing the big-league club the following season.
Final score on June 26, 2002: Buffalo Bisons 6, Charlotte Knights 4.
Winning pitcher on June 26, 2002: Brandon Matheny.
The left-hander was sent back to Kinston a few days later.
“I remember one inning giving up three doubles in a row,” Matheny said. “But we scored enough runs during that stretch to help me steal a win. It was a cool night and one that is nice on the stat line, but I’m realistic and don’t act like my baseball career made it to Triple-A.”
Matheny had been a multi-sport star at Holston and finished his four seasons at Emory & Henry College with an Old Dominion Athletic Conference-record 340 strikeouts. The Cleveland Indians selected him in the 17th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
“You know, you get done with college, but you’re still not sure what you’re going to do with your life or if you’re even ready to begin,” Matheny said. “So getting to play for a few more years allowed me to keep maturing, but without the stress of real life and bills. There wasn’t a lot of money in it, but that never really seemed to bother me. I’d been playing baseball since I was 4-years-old and didn’t get paid anything up to that point, so what was the difference.”
Matheny finished his pro career 18-14 with four saves and a 3.25 ERA in 72 games (51 starts) for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Columbus RedStixx, Kinston Indians, Kansas City T-Bones and one unforgettable appearance for the Buffalo Bisons 18 years ago.
“Pitching a few years in professional baseball was a great opportunity as I look back on it,” Matheny said. “There were a lot of great memories spent down in Florida for spring training or on long bus rides after games. I first met my lovely wife, Amy, at Emory, but baseball did reconnect me with her when our team came into Winston-Salem for a road series, so I guess without those baseball years, my life would be completely different. I was pretty blessed to have been given that opportunity many, many years ago.”
email@example.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570
June 26, 2002
Class AAA International League
Buffalo 6, Charlotte 4
Buffalo 000 003 030—6 11 0
Charlotte 000 013 000—4 9 1
D. Maurer, Matheny (5), Sadler (8) and Bard. W – Matheny (1-0). L – Schrenk (1-6). S – Sadler (1). HR – none.