Rye's George Kirby makes homecoming at Citi Field in second MLB start for Mariners

·5 min read

NEW YORK - After more than two-dozen friends and family traveled across the country from Rye to Seattle on short notice to catch George Kirby's Major League Baseball debut against Tampa Bay, it was going to take a lot more than Saturday night's heavy rain to stop the welcome wagon from making the much-shorter trek to Citi Field to catch Kirby's next game.

Six days after his first MLB start, the Rye native was back in New York, pitching against the Mets.

"It was awesome, couldn't ask for a better lineup," Kirby said. "Throwing home in Seattle for the first time, on Mother's Day, then coming back to New York, it's pretty special."

Rye's George Kirby pitching for the Seattle Mariners against the Mets at Citi Field May 14, 2022.
Rye's George Kirby pitching for the Seattle Mariners against the Mets at Citi Field May 14, 2022.

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This time, his cheering section added hundreds of people from his hometown, including even more family and friends, as well as former teammates, coaches and teachers. They arrived with signs and came decked out in Mariners and Garnets gear.

"We think there's like 350 people here," said his mother, Linda Kirby. "We left about a hundred of them in the parking lot. It's amazing — the support, the love, it's just awesome. We say it's a dream, and we don't want to wake up."

George Kirby fans from Rye were on hand to see the former Rye High School standout pitch for the Seattle Mariners against the Mets at Citi Field May 14, 2022.
George Kirby fans from Rye were on hand to see the former Rye High School standout pitch for the Seattle Mariners against the Mets at Citi Field May 14, 2022.

Like many little kids taking their first swings at local parks and backyards, George Kirby dreamed of playing in the big leagues when he was older.

Years after he first wrote his dreams on a piece of paper as a first-grader in Rye — a note that his family still has — it became clear that Kirby wasn't like most kids. He stood above the rest at Rye High School, then in college at Elon, followed by his time through the minors, until Seattle decided to call up what Mariners' management referred to as a "robopitcher," for his efficiency in the strike zone and his command.

"He's put in the work, so he's earned every bit of this, he really has," his father, George Kirby, said. "He's had his health and we hope it stays that way. Hopefully, this is the beginning of something long and rewarding. I don't know if my nerves can take it, but aside from that it's amazing."

Against the Rays, Kirby became the first-ever Mariners pitcher to toss six or more scoreless innings in a debut outing. Kirby allowed just four hits and no walks, while striking out seven batters. Although he was credited with a no-decision, the Mariners went on to win 2-1 in extra innings.

On Saturday, he followed up with four innings of work in his second career start, allowing just one earned run on three hits, with one strikeout and one walk in front of a crowd of than 37,000 people.

"I was a Yankee fan growing up, didn't like the Mets very much," Kirby said, grinning. "Just grateful to be here, it's awesome. Just trying to help the guys out.

"Definitely could've made some different pitches at certain counts, but I'm not mad at how the day went."

It was a full-circle moment for Kirby. The Mets originally drafted him out of high school in the 32nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft, although he was insistent on going to pitch in college at Elon.

"I'm really impressed with this kid by the way, he's the real deal," Mets manager Buck Showalter said. "The kid from Rye, I'm sure he has a lot of emotions going on, but he's the real deal. ... Very impressive. I think the first thing that jumps out about this young guy is his command."

Rye's George Kirby pitching for the Seattle Mariners against the Mets at Citi Field May 14, 2022.
Rye's George Kirby pitching for the Seattle Mariners against the Mets at Citi Field May 14, 2022.

In his junior season at Elon, he was named the CAA Pitcher of the Year after an 8-2 season, where he had a 2.75 ERA with 107 strikeouts and only six walks across 88⅓ innings. He left for the MLB Draft that year and was chosen 20th overall by the Mariners.

Before getting called up to the majors this season, he started five games for Seattle's Double-A affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers, posting a 2-0 record and 1.82 ERA, with 32 strikeouts over 24⅔ innings.

According to MLB.com rankings, he is the No. 30 overall prospect and the fifth-highest ranke right-handed pitcher.

"We've been so excited to see him make it up to this level," said friend and former high school teammate Aidan Lavelle. "We'd been looking forward to this since high school, and now that we're here, it was an unbelievable time to see him play, especially against the Mets, at home."

His former high school coach, Mike Bruno, was coaching a baseball game with the Garnets during his debut, but there was no chance he and many others were going to miss Kirby's homecoming on Saturday.

"It's a tight-knit community, especially within the baseball and football program and George is one of our own," Bruno said. "He's got a lot of family and cousins that still live in Rye, so I think it was a no-brainer for all of them get out here."

Although the Mariners couldn't come out on top, Kirby's bandwagon is already looking forward to potentially making the next stop at Fenway Park next week.

"Anywhere he goes, we'll go," said Lavelle, with a smile.

Follow Eugene Rapay on Twitter at @erapay5 and on Instagram at @byeugenerapay.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Rye's Kirby makes homecoming at Citi Field in MLB start for Mariners