Braden's teammates, knowing his love for and philanthropy toward Stockton, came up with a fitting way to celebrate his historic achievement. Reliever Andrew Bailey fished out the iPod from Braden's locker, knowing well it would be the only place in the clubhouse he'd find the song they needed. Braden was still on the field at the time, hugging Lindsey and conducting interviews. Finally he made his way up the ramps and stairs from the dugout, turned right into a hallway and then right again into the clubhouse. The song playing over the clubhouse speakers to greet him was Welcome to Stockton.
"He was smiling, exhausted," Breslow says. "It was so much more emotional than what you would imagine a no-hitter or perfect game to be. It wasn't so much loud screaming and joking as it was appreciation. Everybody was so happy for him."
Braden wasn't about to believe that everything in his imperfect life suddenly was about to change. "If my life wasn't full of adversity and speed bumps, I don't know if I'd even know how to react," he says. "Put it this way: I've never had 'smooth sailing' in my forecast."
For one day, anyway, there was joy in Mudville. The kid from Stockton, raised by a single mom he lost to cancer, made history on Mother's Day, with the grandmother who helped raise him and the hometown folk who know well his generosity watching in person. It was, too, the date each year on which the Eastern Orthodox Church venerates St. Christopher, the patron saint for travelers like him. It was all so perfect, this day on which the 15 minutes Rodriguez allotted him became an eternity.
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For more from Tom Verducci on Braden's masterpiece, go to SI.com/mlb