OAKLAND -- When Josh Lueke gets into a game for the first time out of the Mariners bullpen, the 26-year-old will realize a dream many told him would never come true as a kid growing up in Covington, Ky.
Lueke has pitched just 12 games at the Triple-A level in his pro career, but he won a job this spring with the promise of his upper-90s fastball for a franchise looking for power arms in the bullpen.
"It's been a roller coaster," said Lueke, who was acquired as part of the Cliff Lee deal in July. "Getting the news from [manager Eric] Wedge and Jack [Zduriencik, GM] and Carl [Willis, pitching coach] was a real exciting day in my life and for my parents and all my friends back home.
"Basically I'm going out there and proving some people wrong from when I was little, people who said you'll never amount to that because it's such a small percentage that it happens for. Then going out and actually doing it, it's 'Holy crap, I'm here.'"
Lueke went to a handful of games in nearby Cincinnati to watch the Reds as a kid. He remembers catching a foul ball hit by Ron Gant as a teenager when he and his buddies were hanging out down the left-field line.
"That was a pretty good rush," Lueke remembered. "It's neat going out there now and having people ask you for autographs and actually knowing who you are."
Wedge understands Lueke and fellow rookie Tom Wilhelmsen could be a little star-struck in their first appearances. He'll look for the right situation to ease them in and says it's important to remain confident in the youngsters no matter what happens their first time out.
Lueke looks around Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum at the three decks of seats and the years of history and relishes the chance for his first showing.
"This is an older place, but it's a big league ballpark," he said. "Walking out there when it's empty gives you a little rush, but when there are fans out there is when it really sets in and all the childhood fantasies come to life, pitching in a big-league park in front of fans.
"Hopefully I go out there and do my job and see what happens."