If good karma could give a struggling closer better command of his fastball, Milwaukee Brewers fans wouldn't be worrying so much about John Axford.
The pride of Port Dover, Ont., endeared himself to baseball fans everywhere last month. The Brewers closer had just had his streak of converting 49 consecutive save opportunities smashed after giving a three-run lead in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs. His spouse was going into labour, so he left a handwritten note for the media before jetting off to the hospital before the game ended.
That turned out to be a false alarm the couple. On Tuesday, John and Nicole Axford welcomed their new baby boy, Jameson Aedan Axford, into the world. Axford tweeted out the photo of his son, rushed to Miller Park, and what happened? He ended up getting another blown save.
From Tom Haudricourt:
Axford had the joy in the afternoon of having wife Nicole deliver their second son. [Milwaukee] Manager Ron Roenicke told him he could stay at the hospital if he wanted but Axford reported for duty and surrendered consecutive homers by Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista in the ninth to blow a 9-8 lead in what became a 10-9 interleague loss.
... Axford said he had no regrets about coming from the hospital, where his wife gave berth in mid-afternoon, to the ballpark, even though it led to his third blown save in his last five chances and fourth overall.
"I came here for a reason, which was to do my job," he said. "That's the reason I came. This is my family away from my family at home and I still have a job to do. I just didn't get it done.
"No regrets at all. I just wanted to make sure my son was OK, that he was healthy, and my wife was OK, that she was healthy. I still have a job to do. If I was sitting in the hospital, watching the game, and the same thing happened to somebody else that happened to me, I would have felt even worse than I do right now. That's my job, for now, anyways. I'm supposed to be out there in that inning, in that situation. That's why I wanted to come." (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
There is probably little correlation between the personal and the professional here for Axford. Balls have been jumping off hitters' bats during the first two games of the Blue Jays-Brewers series at Miller Park; the Jays have parked nine home runs over the fence in the past two games. Still, it's an all-time coincidence that he had a blown save on the day it looked like the baby was coming and on the day he actually arrived.
It is good to see that a skein of poor performances (three blown saves in his last four chances) hasn't made Axford act any differently.
The tall right-hander has been an inspiring story. It's been well-publicized that he worked joe-jobs selling cellphones and bartending at an Eastside Mario's restaurant while waiting for his break in baseball. During his college years at Notre Dame, he also overcame the successive shocks of losing his pitching mentor, Doug King, and needing the dreaded Tommy John surgery only a few months apart in 2003. He's made of strong stuff, and he seems to realize there are higher priorities than a baseball game. He's made of strong stuff, even if his stuff on the mound has not been working for him lately.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.