Jordan Comadena knows the 412 area code well. Some contacts in his cell phone begin with 412, a western Pennsylvania prefix that includes Pittsburgh and much of Comadena’s extended family.
When Comadena’s cell rang at 7:15 a.m. on April 11, the call was from a 412 number not among his contacts. So he did what we do … let it go to voice mail.
The caller left a message.
“I listened to the voice mail and it was Clint Hurdle,” Comadena said. “He said, ‘I have an opportunity I want to run by you. Give me a call.’ ”
Yes, that Clint Hurdle, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. And yes, those Pirates, the team Comadena rooted for while growing up here in Bloomington-Normal.
Hurdle was in the market for a bullpen catcher to work Pirates’ home games. Comadena, a former catcher at Normal West High School, Purdue University and in the Houston Astros’ minor league system, was on his way to the big leagues.
“That’s what makes this kind of surreal and just incredible,” Comadena said Tuesday. “I’ve been a lifelong Pirates, Steelers, Penguins fan. To be able to go to PNC Park and be part of that organization and part of the day-to-day work and the stuff that goes into getting guys ready to play the game, it’s just unbelievable.”
Comadena traveled to Pittsburgh this past weekend and worked a three-game series against Milwaukee. It went well.
“Great” is the word he used.
Tuesday, the 30-year-old Comadena was back in West Lafayette, Ind., where he is a volunteer assistant coach for the Purdue baseball team. He lives there with his wife, Alicyn, and their 14-month-old daughter, Kynli.
Comadena will travel to Pittsburgh for Pirates home stands the rest of the season. Lodging will not be an issue.
“I’ll stay with my grandma, who lives about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh,” he said. “I’ll drive from there to the ballpark every day … piece of cake.”
Clearly these are sweet times for Comadena, who was brought in to assist the Pirates’ full-time bullpen catcher. Heberto Andrade, a 13-year veteran, is with the team home and away.
The Pirates will pay Comadena’s expenses to and from Pittsburgh as well as a salary for the home games. It is not a get-rich-quick proposition, but will “certainly be worth it,” he said.
His name took a circuitous route to Hurdle’s desk. The Pirates initially reached out to University of Pittsburgh baseball coach Joe Jordano, asking if he knew of any candidates.
Jordano passed along the inquiry to coaches he knew at the University of Indianapolis. The pitching coach there, Mark Walther, had coached with Comadena in 2012-13 at Parkland College.
“He (Walther) text me randomly about a month ago and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got something you might be interested in. Send me your résumé,’ ” Comadena said. “That was kind of it. I never followed up with anybody.”
A few weeks later the phone rang.
Big leaguers always talk about getting “the call.” Like most, Comadena dreamed of it while pouring heart and soul into the game. The call from Hurdle wasn’t exactly what he envisioned, but …
“This is the closest thing to playing I suppose that you can get,” he said.
This past weekend, Comadena warmed up a number of relief pitchers during the three-game series. He also threw some batting practice, first to pitchers Gerrit Cole and Juan Nicasio on Saturday, then to starting position players Gregory Polanco, Jordy Mercer and Matt Joyce on Sunday.
Introduced to the team on Friday afternoon, Comadena said the players and coaches “have been real warm and receptive and welcoming.” He will rejoin them on April 29 for the start of a six-game homestand.
“I’m going to do anything and everything I can to help guys maximize their day,” Comadena said. “I want to be somebody who when I’m gone they’ll say, ‘Where’s Jordan? We need him around here.’
“That’s my goal, to become valuable enough that I’m needed all the time.”