EL PASO, Texas - Daniel Camarena woke up last Thursday in El Paso. He went to bed a hero in San Diego.
Camarena's 4th-inning grand slam off 3-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer was one of the more improbably stories of the first half of the MLB season, especially considering that the 28-year old pitcher had been called up from Triple-AAA earlier that day.
But a sliver of credit could be attributed to Camarena's Triple-AAA teammate Gosuke Katoh, who lent him his bat and batting gloves when he found out he may be forced to step into the box.
"We've always joked about if he needs a bat, I'm going to give him one," says Katoh, who has known Camarena since their childhood days growing up in the San Diego area. "And batting gloves too."
Camarena's dream day started in El Paso, where he was ironically moving into Katoh's apartment when he received the news.
"He was going to move in, and he had just gotten back from Target," Katoh remembers of that morning. "And the Padres called him in the parking lot."
The news no doubt made Camarena's day but Katoh, who is spending his first season in the Padres organization, did manage to find a small consolation.
"He had just bought like $100 worth of stuff," says Katoh of Camarena. " And he was like 'Man, I don't know what I'm going to do with all this stuff.' So I just took all of his stuff."
While Camarena gifted Katoh some toiletries, Katoh gifted Camarena his bat and gloves knowing that his roommate may be called to the plate.
"He knew he was going to pitch because the Padres needed length that day. And we looked at the probables, and it was Max Scherzer," quipped Katoh of the Nationals' ace pitcher that day.
"And I just jokingly said like 'Hey man, what if you get an at-bat and you hit a homer off of him?' And we just laughed."
And wouldn't they know it.
Camarena not only took an at-bat against Scherzer but he took him deep for a grand slam, becoming only the second pitcher ever (Bill Duggleby, 1898) whose first hit was a grand slam.
The slam cut the Nationals' lead to 8-6, in a game the Padres eventually came back to win 9-8.
Katoh was in the Chihuahuas dugout during Camarena's home run, and found out from some teammates who had been watching in the clubhouse.
"One of the guys came out and was like 'Camarena just hit a grand slam," says Katoh. " And I just couldn't believe it. I got chills."
Katoh still had to finish his game that night against the Oklahoma City Dodgers in Triple AAA, but went and watched his friend's blast immediately after.
"Just watching him round the bases, it was only like 20 seconds, but I've known him for so long and a lot of hard work and determination went into those 20 seconds."
In addition to both growing up in San Diego together, Katoh and Camarena spent ten years together in the New York Yankees farm system where they would room together in spring training.
"It couldn't have happened to a better person. Whatever happens, he's always grinding, he's always out there. It doesn't matter what level in the minors he's at. Hopefully there's more moments like that to come for him."
Ironically when the two spoke after the game, Camarena was already asking Katoh for another bat. But not for the reason you'd expect!
"Not because he wants more, but they (Padres) put that bat in the Padres Hall of Fame. So he's in need of another bat so I gotta ship him out another bat!"
So technically, Gosuke Katoh is in the Padres Hall of Fame.
"I mean it's his bat. But it has my name on it," laughs Katoh of the Louisville Slugger W310. "Yeah it's in the Padres Hall of Fame."
"I'm sure a lot of people are questioning, looking at that bat in its display case and wondering why my name is on a Daniel Camarena moment. But there's a funny background story to that that we all know."
It's a moment that will now live for all-time in San Diego, but a piece of history that symbolizes the friendship of two lifelong baseball friends.