On March 31, 1998, a day after Chris Sale's ninth birthday, his uncle brought him to Tropicana Field for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' first game.
He pitched here once as a reliever in 2011, but his first Major League start in his home state, in the ballpark of the club he grew up rooting for, was far more special.
Taking the mound before "quite a few" of his family and friends, Sale finished one short of Jack Harshman's club record with 15 strikeouts Monday afternoon as the White Sox pushed their winning streak to six with a 2-1 victory over the Rays.
"I don't know what it was like facing Randy Johnson when he was young," said Rays outfielder Ben Zobrist. "But this kid, he's going to be great, and I think he has a real bright future as a starter."
The 23-year-old left-hander from nearby Lakeland racked up the most punchouts by a White Sox pitcher since Harshman sat down 16 against Boston on July 25, 1954. He also topped Pedro Martinez's 1999 record (14) for the most strikeouts at Tropicana Field. But Sale didn't have any idea about the records he was breaking and approaching.