DETROIT -- At about 12:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, David Shoemaker made his way down the aisle of Section 126 at Comerica Park, right behind home plate. He found Row 24, shuffled to Seat 5, sat down and saw his son, Matt, warm up for his first start in his hometown.
"My wife turned to me and she's like, 'Don't even look at him,'" David said. "Then he gets through that first inning, and then second inning, and then the third inning."
And then the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh.
Shoemaker's return home saw him face 22 batters and allow only two of them to reach base, producing his best start of an up-and-down season and leading the Angels to a much-needed 2-0 victory. The Trenton, Mich., native and Eastern Michigan University product departed with one out and none on in the eighth, then looked up and saw at least 50 friends and family members cheering him on behind home plate.
Shoemaker spent the entire afternoon blocking them out, then the moment got him.
"It's incredibly special," he said after giving up one hit and one walk in 7 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out five while dropping his ERA to 4.48. "It means a lot."
This was the game Shoemaker's family spent the entire season waiting for; the one they almost missed out on for a second straight time.
When the Angels came to the Motor City last year, it was April 18, and Shoemaker -- still a few months removed from the breakout run that had him finish second in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting -- had been optioned to Triple-A five days earlier.
This year, he was sent to the Minors a week before the Angels flew to Detroit. Shoemaker had turned his season around with a 1.69 ERA from June 26 to Aug. 4. But then he gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings in Chicago on Aug. 10, and six runs in the second inning in Kansas City on Aug. 15, and then they sent him to Triple-A.
"It takes the wind out of your sails," Shoemaker's wife, Danielle, said. "Everybody wanted to see him pitch."
The Angels were in need of bullpen help and Shoemaker was the odd man out, but manager Mike Scioscia also saw this as "the only chance we had to give Matt a chance to work on some stuff."
Shoemaker had what Scioscia called "two really good bullpen sessions," first with Major League pitching coach Mike Butcher and then with Triple-A pitching coach Erik Bennett. He worked on getting his upper half and lower half in sync, then gave up three unearned runs for the Salt Lake Bees on Saturday and was told he'd make his next start with the Angels, 20 minutes north of where he grew up.
"You kind of had to scramble," Danielle said. "It didn't really seem real."
Shoemaker's first baseball game was at the old Tiger Stadium, and David remembered "how his eyes lit up." He grew up with a poster of Cecil Fielder on his bedroom wall, because part of him always wanted to be a power-hitting corner infielder. And he cheered hard in 2006, when the Tigers made it all the way to the World Series.
Shoemaker was a collegiate sophomore then, two years away from signing with the Angels as an undrafted free agent and nine years away from the improbable 2014 season nobody in the state of Michigan anticipated.
"They all knew I wanted to [pitch in the big leagues]," Shoemaker said, "but a lot of people didn't necessarily think it."
Reached after the game, David still couldn't grasp his emotions.
"I'm truly overwhelmed," he said. "My stomach's been in knots all day, to be honest with you. You think about those things in life, and I just wanted it so bad for him. Not me, not our family. Just for Matt. And I'm just thrilled for him."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.