DURHAM — Blake Snell remembers last weekend in snapshots.
For two days, his life was a blur.
First, there was a phone call from Durham Bulls manager Jared Sandberg, summoning him to the lobby of their hotel in Norfolk, Va. to tell the 23-year-old southpaw that he was moving up to the big leagues for a spot start the next day in New York.
Within two hours, Snell was packed and headed to the airport. He remembers flying into LaGuardia and sitting in an Uber for an hour as it crawled through the boroughs to Yankee Stadium.
And then? Snell isn’t quite sure.
His memory is full of flashes; of the Rays players in the clubhouse, of manager Kevin Cash on the field, of playing catch before the game.
“It all just went so fast,” Snell said. “It doesn’t even feel like it happened to be honest.”
That’s when his family and friends took over, supplementing his memory by snapping pictures to constantly document the Seattle native’s first trip to the big leagues and the Big Apple.
“I just told them, just take a bunch of pictures because I don’t want to do it,” Snell said. “I’m gonna be pretty busy. So they did all of that and then at the end I got them all. It was pretty cool to see how many pictures I had and what I enjoyed. I’ll never forget it.”
Snell got an extra day’s rest before making his major league debut against the Yankees, putting together a dazzling five-inning performance that included a strikeout of his childhood idol, Alex Rodriguez. That moment flashes in and out of his mind too, but a family member managed to capture the moment forever.
“One of my friends had [a photo] when I struck out A-Rod, a photo of him when he was turned around and looking and arguing about it,” said Snell, who struck out six and only allowed one run on two hits in his MLB debut. “It’ll probably go somewhere in my house. Growing up, I was like ‘A-Rod is a god.’ I always thought he was the best player in the world. So I when I got to face him, I was like, ‘This is crazy.’
“It’s at the back end of his career, he’s not like in his prime, but he’s still a god. I’m gonna say that. It was really cool to see, to be able to do that and face him.”
And then, as soon as the weekend transpired, it was over, and Snell rejoined his Triple-A club in Durham.
The trip to the big leagues was a relief, a weight lifted off of the organization’s top pitching prospect. Now, he’s just focused on getting back in the groove with his first start since rejoining the team earlier this week. In Friday’s loss, Snell pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits while striking out six. But with any luck, he’ll be back in the majors soon enough, with a little more time to document his achievement.
“Hopefully it helps him relax a little bit because he’s not be wondering when he’s going to get called up or anything like that,” Sandberg said. “He got called up, and now he’s back here. His time is definitely coming. The way he pitched up there, his time is coming.