It was a proud moment for two Nevada grandparents.
On May 30, Gary and Mary Lynn Siefken of Nevada were in the stands at Busch Stadium watching their grandson, Michael Wacha, make his pitching debut in the major leagues. Wacha, the son of the Siefken’s oldest daughter, Karen, and her husband, Tom, was the starting pitcher that night for the St. Louis Cardinals, the ball club that drafted him as a first-round pick (number 19) at the end of his junior year at Texas A & M.
The hype was big about Wacha, and in his debut against the Kansas City Royals; he lived up to all of it, as the next day’s St. Louis Today newspaper reported. Gary said the team lost the game, but it was a "no-decision" for his grandson, as the team was ahead when they took him out of the game. It was an "awesome" night, the Siefkens said.
As grandparents, one might think the Siefkens would have special seats in the stadium, but the two did not. "You buy your own ticket, and we were in the top level, right behind home plate, looking out at the arch and the pitcher’s mound. It was spectacular," said Gary, a retired Nevada Middle School counselor who still drives a bus for the school district.
Mary Lynn, a retired Real Estate agent, said it was fun to see the crowd’s reaction when their grandson took the field. "He came in and somebody in the crowd, not relatives, had made a sign that said, ‘Wacha, Wacha, Wacha,’ and that was awesome. You’re just so proud, seeing his name there and on the scoreboard."
The stadium was near capacity that night, filled with more than 93,000 fans. It seats 95,000, Gary said.
At one point, as folks around them were talking about their grandson and the expectations for him, Gary told one of the fans that he was Wacha’s grandpa. "And that just spread like wildfire," said Mary Lynn. "We had two people ask if they could take their picture with us!"
After three starts when the Cardinals needed him, Wacha returned to his Triple A team, the Memphis Redbirds. The Siefkens, who didn’t get to talk to him following his major league debut, said they hope to see him when the Redbirds play the Iowa Cubs. They watch a lot of his baseball games via the computer.
Their daughter Karen, a 1982 graduate of Nevada High School, took part in softball (third base) in high school, as well as basketball and track. And Gary said Karen’s husband was very instrumental in getting their grandson off to the right start, coaching all his Little League games. "His father was the backbone of him being where he’s at now and deserves all the credit. They went to many tournaments; never missed a game."
In Texas, where the Wachas reside, Mary Lynn joked, there are only two sports, "baseball and football." And another grandson, Michael’s younger brother, Lucas, plays the other one – football. He’s presently on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Wyoming as an outside linebacker. The Siefkens hope to attend his first game against Nebraska in August.
As for Michael, the Siefkens believe he’s with an outstanding program in the St. Louis Cardinals, where he’s worked his way up from the developmental league to the Double A league and now the Triple A league.
"He’s a big boy," his grandpa said. "He’s 6’ 6" and weighs about 220, and he can wing it into the high 90s."
Both grandparents are impressed with the way their grandson has handled his incredible opportunity. "He’s a very calm kid, and his dad is just like that. He’s composed and mature," Mary Lynn said.
And he’s got a promising future ahead of him, hopefully on the field. But if something happened to prevent that, Michael has been studying sports management, and would likely pursue a career in that field.
Gary and Mary Lynn weren’t Cardinal fans before, but they are now. "We even have jackets," Mary Lynn said. And they haven’t asked their grandson for many favors. "Grandpa’s just waiting for his State Bank unlimited debit card," Gary said with a chuckle.