Cory Doyne waited nearly eight years for June 16 to arrive. He appeared in 244 Minor League games, pitching in eight different leagues for 10 different teams before he pulled on a Major League uniform for the Orioles that day in Baltimore.
Though Doyne had finally realized his dream, it turned into a nightmare when less than two months later his season was over and he was headed for an operating table. The Florida native had developed a SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior-Posterior) lesion on his right labrum and would require season-ending surgery, bringing an abrupt and disappointing end to a sojourn that included stops in countless Minor League outposts.
One of those outposts was Norfolk, where he spent the majority of the 2007 season. The Tides were in their first year of affiliation with Baltimore after spending nearly four decades as the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in the International League. The franchise was starting over and so was Doyne, who had signed with the O's last winter after spending the previous six seasons with St. Louis.
It was his work in Norfolk that gave Doyne the chance to pitch for Baltimore this summer. It was also because of his work with the Tides that he was tabbed as the MiLB.com Triple-A Relief Pitcher of the Year. Doyne appeared in 42 games for Norfolk, the last of which was on July 23.
Despite missing nearly the final six weeks of the season, he set a franchise record with 29 saves, breaking the mark of 26 set by Derek Wallace in 1996. Doyne (0-1, 2.23) also had the third best save total in the IL behind Rochester's Bobby Korecky (35) and Columbus' Chris Booker (30).
But it remains a bittersweet season for Doyne, who began feeling pain in his shoulder during his second stint with Baltimore in late July. The O's were in Boston and Doyne was throwing a bullpen session when the problem began to surface.
"I was throwing the first day I got there and there was a little something in there," he said. "I was trying some different pitches and I just figured my shoulder wasn't used to it. I had some sharp pain but my velocity was still there. And when I got into a game, it was the same thing.
"We were headed down to Tampa after that and I was going to let the team know but they optioned me back to Norfolk. So I took a couple of days off but then when I got to Norfolk, I couldn't throw. The pain had intensified too much."
An examination revealed the lesion, putting Doyne in a position to make a choice. He could attempt to rehab the shoulder and try pitching again later in the year or he could have the surgery. He opted for the latter, hoping that he would be healed in time for the 2008 season.
"I didn't want to risk not having the surgery and wind up missing all of next year," he said.
Doyne underwent surgery in early September and is currently pain free. He doesn't know when he'll be throwing again but he's regained his range of motion and is rehabbing several times a week. Though he appears to be recovering and remains on schedule to be ready for Spring Training, he doesn't know what to expect once the calendar reaches February.
So he waits and works. After waiting nearly eight years to achieve his dream, having to wait another few months to resume his quest won't seem so bad. He thinks about the irony of the situation but refuses to wallow in self-pity.
"Trust me, a lot of that stuff goes through your head," he said. "Things like why now, at this point, when I was so close to finishing off the season up there. Or just even finishing the season I was having. It stinks. But I guess everything happens for a reason. It's just another chapter in my life and another challenge to overcome."