Former MLB player begins career as firefighter

Anthony Reyes, a former Cardinals pitcher, has become a Los Angeles County firefighter

By Ben Frederickson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JUPITER, Fla. — A familiar face returned to the St. Louis Twittersphere this weekend. Cardinals Magazine shared the image of a sharply dressed Los Angeles County firefighter, and hey, you knew that guy. There was beaming Anthony Reyes with his happy family.

A former Cardinals pitcher turned firefighter? What a story. It's better if you know the beginning.

You remember Reyes, of course, thanks to his heroics in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series. The former 15th-round draft pick was erratic that year (5-8, 5.06 ERA), his second of four in St. Louis. He was a fifth starter who had been beyond the sixth inning just three times that season. But he won the championship opener at Comerica Park. Beat a rookie Detroit starter by the name of Justin Verlander. Held the Tigers to four hits and two runs in eight innings. Retired seventeen consecutive Tigers at one point. Went from having the fewest wins of a World Series Game 1 starter to falling three outs shy of becoming the fourth rookie in history to throw a complete World Series game.

"Probably the game of his life," Albert Pujols told the Post-Dispatch at the time.

The win gave the Cardinals their first World Series win since 1987. It snapped former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's personal eight-game losing streak in the Fall Classic. What started as Reyes becoming the first visiting pitcher since Bob Gibson to beat Detroit in a World Series game ended in a parade down Market Street.

The former flamethrower reached the majors thanks to a four-seam fastball that hit 95 mph, easy. Now he fights fires. Both tie back to his father.

Let's take a look back in the P-D archives as we wait for tonight's night game against the Astros in West Palm Beach. In a conversation with the Post-Dispatch during the spring training of 2007, Rick Reyes explained how he both battled flames and shaped a fireballer.

The Los Angeles firefighter received his son's high heat with his mitt up, to protect his chin. And when major league hitters started catching up to that pitch, he would sit on a five-gallon bucket and hold the target low in the zone while his son worked on a sinker.

Dangerous? Perhaps. But this was a man who worked the Los Angeles riots. Even on a routine day, his job description was risking his life to save another's.

"He said he and other firefighters were shot at as they tried to contain fires while looting broke out around them," Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch wrote in 2007. "He's had a gun pointed at his face and raced into fires that he couldn't be certain he would walk out of. But he never doubts he will. "I'll get out, " he said. "I do the job."

Now his son is following in his fearless footsteps.

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