Wednesday, July 5, 2000 | 10:23 a.m.
Once "The Call" is made, everything changes.
A player has 72 hours to pack up his entire apartment and get ready to move.
"The Call" is the one that sends a minor league baseball player up a level -- or down a level.
A call-up is cause for celebration; being sent down is cause for disappointment.
Valley High School graduate Matt DeWitt first got "The Call" on June 10. It was 3 p.m. and DeWitt, then a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays' triple-A affiliate Syracuse Sky Chiefs, was in Scranton, Pa., on a road trip.
"I called my parents, called my friends then went to the field and packed my bag," DeWitt recalled. "Then they called me back and said to stay with the team (Sky Chiefs).
"I had to call my mom back and tell them I'm not going. I was so excited to go, then I was so bummed out. I was so close."
So when Syracuse manager Mel Queen gave DeWitt the good news on June 13 that he had been recalled by the Blue Jays, DeWitt was a little skeptical.
"When I got called up again, I asked, 'Are you sure?' " DeWitt said. "It was exciting. I still can't believe it."
Since then, the 22-year-old Las Vegan is 1-0 with a 6.97 ERA in five relief appearances after pitching a scoreless inning Tuesday against Cleveland.
Being in the big leagues is a new experience for DeWitt -- and so is being a relief pitcher. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 10th round of the 1995 draft before being traded to the Blue Jays this year.
During his entire minor league career DeWitt had been a starter, and he began the season with the Sky Chiefs in that same role. But he was moved to the bullpen for the first time in May to become a closer.
"I'm in the big leagues, so it doesn't matter to me where I play," he said. "I'm so thrilled to be here, whatever role you need me to do, I'll do it.
"I think it adds versatility to my game, like I can spot start if they need it or continue in the pen."
At Valley High School, DeWitt excelled in football and baseball. But he said he always knew that baseball was his game.
A few days before the '95 draft, UNLV offered him a scholarship, which he accepted. But after he was picked he decided to turn pro.
"I was hoping to be drafted," DeWitt said. "I didn't know what round or anything. It had always been my dream to be drafted."
Once he was, he had little problem rising through the Cardinals and Blue Jays farm systems.
DeWitt spent two seasons in rookie ball, but moved up a level each year after that. This year is his second on the 40-man roster.
"It's been fast for me," he said of reaching the bigs. "I've been blessed that it's going as well as it has been going.
"For right now, you hope that when they call (then) you can do the job they want you to and if they like you, they keep you around."
DeWitt's work ethic helped him overcome a rough start with the Sky Chiefs that left his confidence a little shaken.
Because his performance early in the season was nothing to call home about, DeWitt marvels at how far he has come. Now he travels in style, staying in some of the finest hotels, playing in the finest ballparks in the country and, best of all, putting on a Toronto Blue Jays uniform each day.
"Just being here and getting the experience has been great," he said. "Seeing everyone I've watched on TV, (now) I'm seeing them live. It's amazing to me."