South Caldwell (Hudson, N.C.)
baseball coach and athletic director Jeff Parham melted into his cozy maroon leather chair Sunday and soaked it all in.
It was just as he does every time his prized pupil Madison Bumgarner pitches.
"I don't move from that chair," Parham said. "If I do, I pause the TV. I will scream and yell with excitement. I'm just so proud of him."
Parham was extra prideful — and loud — on Sunday.
Bumgarner, the San Francisco Giants rising superstar southpaw, threw the first individual shutout in World Series history since 2003 — a four-hit, eight-strikeout, no-walk gem in a 5-0 win over the Royals.
He became the first pitcher in World Series history to ever throw a shutout with eight or more strikeouts and no walks.
"Crazy," was Parham's quick one-word description.
Crazier considering what a late-season roll the 2007 South Caldwell graduate has been on. His 1.13 ERA through six postseason starts this season is fifth best in major league history. He has a 4-1 record in those starts with a 0.67 WHIP in 47.2 innings.
Craziest, add scoreless starts in 2010 and 2012 World Series starts, his 0.29 ERA over 31 career innings is the best of all-time of those who have pitched 30 or more innings.
Better than Bob Gibson. Better than Sandy Koufax. Better than Tom Seaver, Catfish Hunter and Curt Schilling.
This lumbering country boy from rural Granite Falls, N.C. (approximately 5,000 population), an hour West of Charlotte, has been better than all of them.
Parham, who graduated from South Caldwell in 1983 and has coached there 15 seasons, said Bumgarner was always a fearless big-game pitcher.
The 6-foot-5 left-hander, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft (by the Giants), led South Caldwell to 2006 and 2007 4A State Championship title series, winning in 2007. Fittingly, Bumgarner ended his final prep game with a walk-off two-run title-clinching home run.
"I tell people all the time that Madison wants the ball — or the bat — in a big game situation," Parham said. "The bigger the stage the better. He never shied away from it. He loved it. He just wants to win. That's inside of him. That's just part of his DNA."
But on baseball's biggest stage, certainly the Royals have guys who share similar DNA. Just like the Tigers had competitive sorts in 2012 and the Rangers did in 2010.
That's why Parham said he welled up, watching the lad they nicknamed "The Carolina Peach" for going 23-4 with a near 1.00 ERA and 263 strikeouts in 170 innings his final two seasons for the Spartans.
"I'm sitting there in my favorite chair getting choked up thinking about this accomplished, humble 25-year-old young man and how far he has come and how hard he worked and where he came from, our little South Caldwell High School community," Parham said. "It just brought back so many fond memories." Story Time
It didn't take a crowbar — barely a query — to get Parham to rattle off some of his favorites. Like the first time Parham saw Bumgarner compete:
"It was a sixth-grade summer baseball camp," he said. "At 12, he was a lot taller than all the kids so he stood out for that reason. He was lanky too. More than that, it was the way he threw. Catchers at the camp had a tough time catching him. He was very special then. He could swing the bat pretty well too."
Or when Bumgarner was a freshman at South Caldwell and the lights went out in a showdown against the state's No. 1 team Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.), which was 23-0 at the time:
"We're up 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh and the lights go out," Parham said. "Madison was pitching great but it's going to take at least 30 minutes for the lights to come back on. I was considering taking him out but he kept saying, ‘Coach, I'll be fine. I want to finish. Trust me coach. Trust me.'
"He went out and struck out the side. Pretty impressive stuff for a 14-year-old." Or Christmas Day during his junior season:
"I get a phone call a little after lunch and it's Madison. He was the only kid to call me on Christmas and I thought it was awfully nice. But then he tells me he wants to lift — that day. What am I going to say? I mean, the kid wanted to get bigger and stronger. I knew right then he had the dedication to make it all the way. He was already throwing harder than anyone. But soon he would be a man among boys." Or the time as a senior when in an elimination playoff series with Alexander Central, Bumgarner had pitched a shutout in the first game on a Tuesday night, but in a high-scoring Friday game Parham had chewed up most of his pitchers. The bases were loaded and the Spartans were holding a one-run lead:
"All of a sudden, I hear the mitt popping in the bullpen and it's Madison throwing. I go down to ask what's going on and he says, ‘Coach, I can get the last out. I feel good. Coach I can do it.'
"I think about it a few seconds, I go out to the mound and bring Madison in. Three pitches and it was done." Recalling his roots
Parham said he would be surprised if Bumgarner doesn't volunteer his services late if the Giants are forced to a Game 7. If the Giants win the series, he's almost assured to garner MVP honors, as he did in the NLCS against the Cardinals.
Before the World Series, the South Caldwell student body and staff, a couple hundred strong, clad in black and orange and sporting signs and cut-out Bumgarner faces, gathered in the school's gym. It was part of the school's "MadBum Day."
They produced a short "good luck" video and Parham and his wife Mandi, who also works at the school, texted it to him.
Shortly after winning the first game 7-1, Bumgarner texted Parham back.
"He wrote how much he appreciated it and will never forget where he came from," Parham said.
Bumgarner never forgot the many exchanges at the mound with Parham, especially in tight circumstances. "I'd always try to challenge him by asking him the same thing: ‘Is that all you got?' and he'd always reply, ‘No sir.'"
So after he shutout Pittsburgh 8-0 in the National League wild-card game two weeks ago with 10 strikeouts and no walks, Parham texted Bumgarner the following:
"Is that all you got?"
To which Bumgarner texted back: "Coach, I believe that's all I got. Haha."
Judging by what he's done since, Bumgarner was indeed joking.