SALT LAKE CITY — The game was long over, but 200 people lingered around Smith’s Ballpark on Monday night as the clock rolled past 10:30 p.m.
They were all there to greet former BYU pitcher and Layton native Kolton Mahoney after his start with the New Orleans Baby Cakes, who were in Salt Lake to play the Salt Lake Bees.
“It was surreal, like unbelievable. There’s not many words for me to describe how happy I was to come back to Utah and have so many people come to the game. A lot of family, a lot of friends, people I haven’t seen in years,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney got cheers at Smith’s Ballpark, a rare sight for opposing team.
“I tried to stay even-keeled a little bit, but there was times where it was a little hard. There was a lot of people cheering for me, which is not usual at a visiting team. It was pretty neat. It was an exciting experience,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney was called up from Double-A Jacksonville just in time for Monday’s game, the last of a four-game series against New Orleans. Mahoney first called his wife, who started crying when she heard the news. Then, he called his family.
“My family, when I told them, they were ecstatic. They thought it was the coolest thing ever that I could come pitch in front of them,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney, who said he said he grew up “chasing homers in left field” and sitting on the berm with his dad and brother, was all of the sudden on the mound.
In just his third Triple-A start of his career, Mahoney showed composure and turned in a good performance, finishing with a line of seven hits, two earned runs, two walks and three strikeouts. His performance was good enough for a Baby Cakes come-from-behind 5-2 win.
“It felt really good. I had command of all my pitches, my slider was a little bit hard to get used to — these balls are a little bit different than the Double-A balls — but everything else was pretty good. I found it late, everything was working. Little hits here and there, but can’t control that, just controlled what I could control and tried to do the best that I could, limit all the damage,” Mahoney said.
The start in Salt Lake was a homecoming for the former BYU pitcher, who played at BYU in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
“It was awesome. That was one of the most fun places to play. We had a beautiful stadium, I had a lot of fun with my teammates,” Mahoney said of his time at BYU. “It was a really good experience pitching there. I learned a lot. There were a lot of great people that helped me out and helped me get to where I am today."
He credits BYU for starting his path to being a professional baseball player. Mahoney’s favorite moment playing at BYU came when he threw a no-hitter in 2014 against Nicholls State.
“I learned how to pitch at BYU. I had a really good pitching coach and a really good catching coach who taught the catchers how to call game and really helped me understand the game, Trent Pratt and Jeremy Thomas were two influential people who helped me get to where I am and really helped guide me through this path,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney has kept in contact with all his BYU coaches and texted them the good news.
Mahoney was able to catch up with former teammate Brennon Lund the day before the game, but with Lund on the disabled list, Mahoney was unable to face his former teammate.
“One of my teammates that’s on the Bees right now, unfortunately he was injured. I faced him a couple times in Double-A but it would have been cool to face him (in Triple-A) because he’s from Utah as well. That would have been cool to face him,” Mahoney said. “Yesterday, when I got here, I caught up with him a little bit and it was fun to talk to him. I just said hi to him in the outfield.”