Craig There is a lot of hardware at Auto Parts of Craig and Airtek Filters.
It was only fitting that a man with some hardware of his own was there Wednesday.
Cliff Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young winner and ace of the Philadelphia Phillies, took a detour from his Northwest Colorado hunting trip Wednesday and appeared at Auto Parts of Craig, signing autographs for the Moffat County High School baseball team.
Brad King, of Auto Parts of Craig, said Lee, who is the official spokesperson for Montana Tractors, which are sold at Auto Parts of Craig, was there during an elk hunting trip.
King said it was surreal having a pitcher he had watched at Coors Field in Denver only a month earlier inside the store.
“We watched him during the playoffs, and the Rockies were the only team that came close to beating him,” he said. “I wish he was a Rockie.”
King said watching Lee, who went 2-0 with a 2.81 earned run average in the World Series and was the only Phillies pitcher to beat the New York Yankees, interact with the Bulldogs was a cool experience.
“It was just kind of funny to me to see their reactions,” he said.
The Bulldogs’ Kulen Turner said meeting Lee was one of the highlights of his high school career.
“It was really big,” Turner said. “We don’t have anybody this big in Craig — this is probably one of the best days of my life.”
Scott Costello typically catches his high school teammates, but he said he wouldn’t miss a chance to catch up with the Phillies’ ace.
“It’s crazy,” Costello said. “A pitcher, especially one from Philadelphia, here. I guess it really is the hunting capital of the world — it brings everyone out.”
Costello said watching Lee on television can be misleading.
“He’s a lot taller than he looks on TV,” he said. “He seemed pretty calm and relaxed; it’s the same way he pitches — he keeps his composure.”
Ben Williams, like Lee, is the ace of his staff.
“It’s rare to see someone like that here,” Williams said. “It’s exciting to get a front row view and see how he acts.”
Like Williams, Bubba Ivers pitches for the Bulldogs.
He said it was strange to have met a player he watched play in the World Series less than a month ago.
“It was awesome,” Ivers said about meeting Lee. “It was also pretty sweet watching him strike out 10 Yankees and shut them down.”
Greg Blackstun is normally a Yankees fan, but Wednesday, he was just a fan.
“I respect both teams, but I felt like the Yankees had the upper hand, and I had to root for them,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the Phillies because they are a great team and I still like them, but I liked someone else more.”
Regardless of team preference, Blackstun said he enjoyed meeting a prominent big league pitcher.
“It was amazing just shaking his hand,” he said. “It was awesome because you know that that hand has done some major damage and caused some batters a lot of trouble. Meeting firsthand one of the greatest pitchers in the game was amazing.”
Trevor Goodwin was all smiles after getting Lee’s autograph.
“Pretty cool,” he said. “It’s pretty cool that he came.”
Halen Raymond is the starting third basemen for the Bulldogs.
“Probably one of the coolest feelings ever,” he said. “No one gets a chance to say ‘I just talked to a Cy Young winner, a World Series pitcher.’”
Lee said he had to work hard to be where he is today and didn’t always start for his high school team — something Raymond took to heart.
“Actually, that makes me a little happy,” Raymond said. “Even the great ones have their bad streaks and it gives every kid in high school hope, and it definitely gave me hope.”
Justin Folley, Moffat County baseball head coach, said he normally roots for the Atlanta Braves but that he wouldn’t miss a chance to meet Lee.
“I’m a Braves fan, but I’m a baseball fan, period,” he said. “Seeing a former (American League) Cy Young award winner, a guy who just beat the Yankees and shut them out for nine innings? You have to come and meet the guy.”
Folley said he wanted his players to take something away from meeting Lee.
“I wanted them to see that they’re normal people,” he said. “He’s a pro athlete willing to come here, meet our guys in small town, USA, but he’s still a normal guy.”
Folley said he was glad his players got a chance to meet and talk with Lee.
“Everyone has a shot,” Folley said. “Yeah, he’s a 6’3” lefty and that’s almost a guarantee, but it’s just nice for these guys to meet someone of that caliber, and there aren’t that many chances.”