Rays give Louis Head a birthday gift: His first call-up

The reliever, who turned 31 on Friday, is added to help out a bullpen that will be without Diego Castillo in the series opener against the Blue Jays.
Louis Head, right, seen here with Stetson Allie during trining camp, just got his first call-up to the majors.
Louis Head, right, seen here with Stetson Allie during trining camp, just got his first call-up to the majors. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published April 23, 2021|Updated April 23, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — Louis Head thought he was out of baseball.

Eight years of bouncing around the minors. A May 2020 release by the Mariners. Not one call from another big-league team.

So he started a door-to-door sales job in Arizona, pitching solar panels. “I did pretty well, to be honest,” he said. “I figured if I could set the appointment, the sale would happen.” Shortly before spring training he got a call from the Rays.

A bullpen session led to a minor-league contract, which led to an impressive spring training, which led to a Thursday call that he was being promoted to join the Rays bullpen, which led to him walking into Tropicana Field on Friday as a big-leaguer.

And on his 31st birthday. “I was trying not to cry to be honest,” he said.

Naturally, Head said this was the best birthday gift he has ever gotten, topping a trip to Las Vegas that his wife arranged.

A 2012 draft pick by the Indians, Head had gotten as far as Triple-A with them, and with the Dodgers in 2019, but never to the big leagues. When he got the call from Rays Triple-A manager Brady Williams he was basically speechless and didn’t get much sleep.

“More in shock than anything,” he said. “It’s been a long time. I didn’t play last year. Getting the call-up was so overwhelming.”

When Head got released by Seattle following the spring training pause, he figured it was just a matter of time for another opportunity, given a solid showing in the minors, 19-19, 3.67 in 294 games, with 427 strikeouts in 410 innings.

“I only had phone calls from independent ball teams. And at that time, I couldn’t afford financially to go play independent ball,” Head said. “No other MLB teams reached out to me at that point.”

When the Rays did call, he first thought it could have been a friend pranking him, but he called back — “within like seconds.”

And Friday, no joke, he was a big-league pitcher.

Here is the Rays lineup:

And for the Blue Jays:

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