June 9th, 2017 Phoenix, Arizona, where the dream started. Everything felt surreal that day. My wife, friends and family were able to come and live this moment with me. I kept looking around the stadium waiting for someone to pinch me, then the bullpen phone rings and I hear my name called to start warming up and the adrenaline rushed through my body.
Thinking I’m going to make my debut, I throw about 20 pitches, enough to get warmed and ready. The phone rings, they tell me to sit down. I watched Corey Knebel close the game out, and the Brewers win. I remember staying up late that night playing every part of that day over and over.
The next morning I head to the field after breakfast. Pitchers stretch is early right before batting practice so we stretched and got loose. Hitters started to take their batting practice and we started chasing down batted balls acting like outfielders. These times are fun, and it’s the perfect time to interact with the fans! If they’re lucky some may get a ball thrown to them.
After two groups we head in the clubhouse to get ready for the game.
“These times are fun, and it’s the perfect time to interact with the fans!”
Josh Hader's Most Memorable Moments Of His Career
Read through the Milwaukee Brewer Pitcher’s most memorable moments of his varied and successful career.
As we go back to the bullpen to watch the start of this game, I find myself getting called to warm up for the 7th inning. Then again it hit me – all the adrenaline rushed through my body. I knew this was it.
Top of the 7th finished, I’m in the game.
On the jog out of the bullpen to the mound, I was just looking all around the stadium. I remember hearing fans cheering me on to “go get em”. There’s no better feeling taking your first step onto the mound.
The first batter up, I couldn’t control my adrenaline causing me to walk him. Next pitch I threw a passed ball. That made Counsell internationally walk that batter. I have two guys on base zero outs. I told myself to focus one pitch at a time. I settled in, getting two pop-up outs. My 3rd out came on a looking strikeout, going with a Heater inside.
What made that moment stick with me forever was walking into the dugout, I saw Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson smiling waiting at the end of the stairs. Triple-A roommates all making it to the Big Leagues together. It was a special moment.
My First Career Win
That year was a lot of fun as we were in the hunt to make the playoffs so every game was full of adrenaline. My first career win came on June 7th in New York against the Yankees. I remember that night very well. I went 3 innings giving up one run.
That year I continued to learn from the older guys. How to approach the game especially from the bullpen. It’s a different game from starting mentally. Learning to pitch one pitch at a time, no matter the situation.
July 26th was a day I really had to focus one pitch at a time. I came in the game to face Bryce Harper, a lefty-lefty matchup, with a guy on third and first. One out.
For the first pitch, I try to throw my slider, but miss wide. Next, I got a fastball at the bottom of the zone for a called strike. The count is 1-1 and I go back to the slider and get him to chase. The count is now 1-2 and I know I have to attack him. I go fastball for a swinging strike three and that was a moment when my roles in games started to change to appearing in more higher leverage innings.
Despite finishing strong, we missed the playoffs by one game.
Record Eight Strikeouts
The 2018 Season I wanted to focus on getting better control of my secondary pitches, staying strong in my mechanics in the offseason.
April 30th, I was the first pitcher to ever record eight strikeouts in an outing that was less than three innings and then I got awarded pitcher of the month.
Starting a strong first half, I was invited to the All-Star game. This was a huge honor knowing how hard I worked in the offseason to improve as a pitcher. In the hunt to make playoffs, we found ourselves in the same spot: winning one game at a time.
September 21 was a night for history, getting to 16 consecutive outs by strikeout over 5, an MLB record. Along with that setting an all-time strikeout record by a left-handed reliever.
My all-time favorite baseball memory came this year. It was a game that was for it all.
In a rare Game 163, we play the Chicago Cubs in Chicago in a day game. It was a tight game going back and forth and the call came to the bullpen for me to warm up for the bottom of the 8th inning. We had just scored two runs to make it 3-1 with 6 outs left in the game. This was the moment that carried me to the end.
The 8th inning started with a swinging strikeout. Second out came on a line out to second base and I had a 7 pitch at-bat with Contreras ending with a swinging strikeout.
The 9th inning started with a swinging strikeout. Next out was a fly out to right. 2 outs left knowing we were only one out away from making it happen. Baez comes to bat and the first three pitches I throw balls. I work my way back into the count to make it 3-2.
Four pitches later, I gave up a single to him. 3-1 score and Rizzo is up. I get him to a 1-2 count. Trying to throw a fastball up and in,I got him to hit a fly ball to right field and Keon Broxton was there to seal the deal.
This was a celebration I’d remember forever – Popping bottles in their clubhouse celebrating with everyone. It was my first professional playoff berth. I finished the season 6-1 with 12 saves and a 2.43 ERA. 143 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings pitched.
Winning Reliever Of The Year
We move on to play the Colorado Rockies at home and wow, this was the loudest I’ve heard in the stadium and watching the fans wave the flags around in the air.
I come in the middle of the 7th inning and we’re up 2-0 and I got a strikeout to finish the inning. In the 8th inning I started with two strikeouts and caused a fly out to center for 3 outs. We won that game in extra innings taking an early 1-0 lead in the series.
Getting two wins at home going into Denver was a huge moment for us. It was a cold and rainy day but we jumped to an early 1-0 lead. We had a 6-0 lead going into the 9th inning and I come in with one out, runners on first and third. I strike out the first batter I faced. One out remaining to advance.
Thinking one pitch at a time to get out of this, I miss with a fastball falling behind in the count. Next pitch, I throw a fastball away and I get him to fly out to right field. We advance again and the celebrations happen again.
Playoff baseball is a different kind of baseball. The intensity is higher, the crowd is louder.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were next, and we go 7 games and lose the last game. Pitching in 7 2/3 innings striking out 12 with a 0.00 ERA.
Afterwards, MLB announced I won the Trevor Hoffman reliever of the year award which was a huge honor. It’s an award that is named after two of the best relievers that ever played baseball.
2019 I started as the closer, which was the biggest test mentally and physically. The last 3 outs in a game are the hardest outs to get in baseball. It will test you.
I was able to continue perfecting my mechanics through the offseason so I started well, and on March 30th, I threw an immaculate inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.
I never thought about it while it was happening, I was just in the zone attacking the hitters. I realized once we got in the clubhouse after the game. “YAZ” said, “Do you know what we just did?” He said, “you just threw an immaculate inning.” I wanted to be in the pressure situations, I wanted to have the ball when the game is close, or need a big out.
Finishing the season off with 75.2 innings with 138 strikeouts. First in the NL with a K/9 of 16.41. Holding opposing hitters with a .155 batting average. Receiving the Trevor Hoffman reliever of the year for a second straight season. Following this award I was named to the First ever All MLB team. Each year I work to be 1% better than I was the following year.
Receiving Reliever Of The Month
Receiving reliever of the month for May and June was another huge honor. Through May I went through 10 games going 1-1 with 6 saves, owning a 0.71 ERA with 21 strikeouts. The month of June I pitched in 9 games with a 0.68 ERA. Saving 7 games with 25 strikeouts.
We played our best games in the last 30 games of the season and I saved 12 games in that span. The role I was in as closer was more than one inning saves. I was the only pitcher in the last 15 years to have 30+ saves averaging 1.2+ innings pitched per relief. 15 of the 37 saves were multiple inning saves.