ST. PETERSBURG — The celebratory drinks with some teammates were fun, the volume of congratulatory messages enough to send his iPhone into electronic shock, the wish-I-was-there tears from his wife Serina touching.
But the moment Matt Garza will remember most after making history Monday night by throwing the first no-hitter in Rays franchise history came from his phone call with 8-year-old son Matthew.
"My son is the funniest kid ever," Garza said. "When I threw against the Marlins, he told me, 'Man, dad, you suck — one inning, seven runs. I could do that.' … I call him last night and I said, 'Matthew, did you watch the game?' He's like yeah. I said, 'Nine innings, no hits. Who sucks now?' And he goes, 'You're still not an All-Star.'
"He's a chip off the old block. It was good though. He's a competitor, and that's the way I like it. He keeps you grounded. He's like, you're not the best yet. So don't start floating away yet. I think that was the coolest thing, because for me it's him getting into baseball and watching it."
The rest of the crowd wasn't as tough, as Garza was widely lauded and feted.
He got the final game ball from Ben Zobrist, who caught the last out, and the lineup card from manager Joe Maddon. The Hall of Fame will display Garza's cap (after the season) and a ball from the game. Commissioner Bud Selig sent a letter of congratulations that will be presented today.
Garza — who wasn't aware of any calls from the late-night talk shows or the Popeye's chicken folks — didn't plan to keep any other souvenirs of the night.
"Just the memory," he said.
That part was still a bit fuzzy when he left the stadium and went out for a while with a few teammates. It was only when he got home (balloons taped to the door by a neighbor), plopped down in front of the TV and clicked on some of his favorites — That '70s Show and George Lopez's Lopez Tonight — that it hit him what he had accomplished.
"Out of nowhere, I just went, 'I threw a no-hitter,' " Garza said. "I was pumped, and just had a big sigh of relief."
He wasn't the only one relieved by the end of the night. Official scorer Bill Mathews, faced with the potential of a double no-hitter into the sixth inning, said it would have been a difficult call had leftfielder Carl Crawford not caught Miguel Cabrera's eighth-inning line drive after losing it in the lights.
"As his knees buckled, so did mine," Mathews said. "But he lost the ball late, and in my opinion it would have been an error."
Garza's wife and three kids had gone home to northern California for the All-Star break and long post-break trip and, though Matt encouraged Serina to return for the game, she planned to come back to Tampa Bay on Tuesday while the kids stayed to go camping with Garza's parents.
"She was upset, she said don't talk about it 'til she gets here today," Garza said. "She was crying last night, she was (upset) that she wasn't here. I was a little upset too that she wasn't here, but hopefully I can do it again."
The first time was monumental enough, the first no-hitter in the Rays' 13-season, 2,039-game history (and it marked their 500th home win).
Among the more noteworthy points, shared by the Rays, ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau:
• Garza was the fifth pitcher in the past 50 years to face the minimum 27 batters in a non-perfect game.
• The Rays were the first team since 1991 to be involved in both sides of a no-hitter in the same season, as the Orioles, White Sox and Expos were then. The Rays also were the third team in major-league history to be involved with three in the same season.
• The Rays' three hits were the fewest by a team winning a no-hitter since the 1998 Reds also had three as Tom Browning posted all zeroes.
• It was the first no-hitter by a pitcher named Matt, the first on a July 26 and the first with umpire Ed Hickox behind the plate.