Tyler Danish lost one of his biggest fans when his father, Michael, died just after Christmas in 2010. Thursday night, to mark his dad's birthday, Danish delivered the start of his career.
The No. 11 White Sox prospect threw his first professional complete-game shutout for the Double-A Barons, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out six as Birmingham bested Pensacola, 4-0, at Regions Field.
"It was a great day. It was a special day," Danish said. "My father passed away when I was 16 and today was his birthday. It was just an extra click with the adrenaline to throw well. It couldn't have been a better day."
The 2013 second-round pick worked his way in and out of trouble early on. He loaded the bases in the second inning and marooned runners at the corners in the third before retiring 17 in a row through the eighth.
"We, as a pitching staff, had a meeting early before the game today, and we just talked about how early contact gets you through games," Danish said of the summit with Barons pitching coach J.R. Perdew. "Be on the attack mode. I had a game plan going in, but couldn't have executed the game plan any better than I did. I ended up having a great night. It's one of the greatest feelings I could have."
The Brandon, Florida native was nearly unhittable in his third career complete game.
"About the sixth and seventh, I definitely felt the extra energy to finish it off on this type of day," Danish said. "Luckily, I got it done. It's definitely one of my better starts, probably of my entire life, and it's just a great day to do it as well."
Birmingham scored runs in the second and fourth on solo homers by Josh Richmond and Nicky Delmonico, the latter's fourth in four games. Then the Barons gave their starter some breathing room with RBI singles from Richmond and Jeremy Dowdy in the seventh.
Danish (2-2) had crossed over 90 pitches through eight frames, but manager Ryan Newman sent him out for the final chapter. After retiring the first two Blue Wahoos hitters in the ninth, Danish served up a triple to Tony Renda that put the shutout in peril, but the righty settled himself to notch the last out.
"I said, 'Stay calm," Danish recalled. "'Don't try to do too much because that's when balls get up and get over the middle of the zone. Just stay within yourself. You've had a game plan with this guy all night, and you've executed it well. Don't change it.'"
Then he induced a weak popup from Sebastian Elizalde to seal the win. The 21-year-old finished at 105 pitches, 71 of them for strikes.
"It creates as much confidence as you can handle, but that doesn't mean to let up now," said Danish, who lowered his ERA from 5.06 to 3.56. "I'll enjoy it tonight. I'm sure my phone's probably blowing up right now, and I'll get back to all those guys and enjoy it. Then I'll get back at it tomorrow."
He did take the time to imagine what his father would think of the birthday present from his talented son.
"He would say, 'Absolutely amazing job,'" Danish said. "He probably couldn't be any more proud than what he is tonight. He'd probably have a little tear in his eye as well."
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.