Was there a more perfect way for Mikey Padilla to start his professional career?
Here he was under the lights of Santa Fe’s Fort Marcy Ballpark, where he played while growing up, with his dad hugging his broad shoulders.
Only Eddie Padilla wasn’t embracing his son and the success of his first game as a Las Vegas (N.M.) Train Robber. He was calling balls and strikes as the home-plate umpire for the Pecos League finale between Las Vegas and the Santa Fe Fuego on Wednesday night.
So, dad leaned over his son, the catcher, to get a better look at the strike zone after Mikey took the field in the sixth inning.
When his son trotted to home plate, Eddie’s words were professional and brief.
“He said, ‘Congratulations,’ ” Mikey recalled.
When the ninth inning of an 11-4 win for the Fuego rolled around, the younger Padilla strolled to the plate for his first at-bat of the season and singled to make for a perfect night.
Well, other than the final score.
The path to Mikey Padilla’s first professional game was a long one. The 2009 graduate of St. Michael’s went to Luna Community College to continue his baseball career, but it was derailed when he tore his labrum in his right shoulder. That ended his college career, but Mikey wasn’t content to let his baseball-playing days end there.
After surgery, he went to a tryout in Alamogordo to make it on a Pecos League team in 2012.
While the shoulder was still healing, Padilla managed to catch the attention of then-Las Cruces Vaqueros manager Casey Dill. He didn’t get a spot on the team, but chance met opportunity a year later.
Mikey was helping with an umpires clinic in Las Vegas, and the Train Robbers — the team that was in Las Cruces a season ago — happened to be scrimmaging. He approached Dill about being a bullpen catcher while he continued to rehab his arm.
“He said, ‘Yeah! We’d love to have you,’ ” Mikey said. “‘We can never have too many catchers.’”
He continued to work on his rehab, strengthening the muscles in his shoulder. When the final day of the season came along, Dill put Mikey on the active roster. And he dangled a carrot in front of him, to boot.
“He said, ‘You might get to pinch hit, you might not,’ ” Mikey said.
It was more than a pinch-hitting spot. Padilla got a chance to throw the ball around, although the arm strength isn’t where it was before the injury. The Fuego stole a couple of bases, but Padilla was encouraged by what he saw — and felt.
“It’s getting better,” Mikey said. “I’m a couple of months out of it, and you can tell with some of the throws. It wasn’t high school Mikey. I just need to get in a little better shape. But I’m thankful for the chance they gave me.”
The good news is that Las Vegas advanced to the playoffs after winning the North Division, and it gives Mikey hope that he might see action in a game or two.
But what a start for Mikey — at home, behind home plate, with dad right behind him.