Supporting cast that lasts

The Baltimore Sun

Chicago White Sox starter and Severna Park native Gavin Floyd wasn't the only one in the family making major adjustments this spring.

Floyd's father, Rodney, a dentist, was supposed to attend a conference yesterday in Chicago.

No problem, he figured, because his son was scheduled to pitch at Camden Yards against the hometown Orioles on Wednesday night. But a rainout last week in Chicago pushed back Floyd's Baltimore start to last night.

And Rodney had already paid for the conference, so he was going to miss his son's first performance at Camden Yards since pitching in the annual Crown All-Star Game as a Mount St. Joseph senior in 2001.

The father assumed he wouldn't be among the 100 Gavin Floyd fans here last night to watch the 25-year-old throw six strong innings against the Orioles.

"I figured he'd have enough people to support him. He didn't need me," Rodney Floyd said. "He knows how I feel."

Nature, though, intervened. Rodney Floyd was stricken with flu symptoms.

"I'm as sick as a dog," he said in a barely audible rasp while sitting in a front-row seat next to the visitor's dugout.

If he weren't at the game, he would have been home in bed. But his wife, Elaine, is a nurse. And she knows sick.

"I listened to his chest and took his temperature, and I said, 'You are fine,' " Elaine Floyd said with a smile.

"As long as I was breathing, I was told I'd be coming," Rodney Floyd said.

It was the first time the couple has seen their son pitch this season, and only the third time for the White Sox. He didn't disappoint. He took a no-hit bid into the fifth before Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar singled.

Floyd didn't allow a run until Nick Markakis' two-run homer in the sixth. And the Floyds, along with Elaine's mother, sister and brother-in-law, had among the best views in the place, directly across from third base in agent Ron Shapiro's box seats.

"It's awesome," Elaine Floyd said. "We know Gavin is just thrilled to pitch against his hometown team. To me, we are just so excited that he is here. This is just a very special evening."

Elaine Floyd said she helped arrange for about 50 friends and family to attend. Another 50 or so came on their own. Most were spread throughout the stadium, including eight from Mount St. Joseph who were in club owner Peter Angelos' box.

Every time Floyd walked off the field, Marylyn Mason clapped and yelled, "Way to go Gavin," from Section 56, about 15 rows up from where the Floyds were.

Mason's son, Chris, grew up with Floyd in Severna Park. The boys played basketball, attended middle school and got kicked out of Spanish class together.

"They both took Spanish together in the hall," said Bert Mason, Marylyn's husband. "Gavin's the nicest kid, he always was."

Chris Mason lives in New York and couldn't make the game, but his parents and sister wanted to show their support.

Although the way Floyd has been pitching this season, he didn't need it. It was his third game for the White Sox this season and his third straight quality start. He has allowed three earned runs and nine hits in 19 1/3 innings (1.40 ERA).

That's a tremendous improvement from his 6.30 career ERA heading into 2008. The difference this season is confidence.

Floyd, the fourth pick overall out of high school in 2001 by the Philadelphia Phillies, made his big league debut as a 21-year-old in 2004. He spent parts of three tumultuous seasons with the Phillies before he was traded to the White Sox in December 2006 as part of the Freddy Garcia deal. A second chance without the pressure of being a club's first-round pick.

"I loved Philadelphia, but I think the expectations for him there were a little too soon," Floyd's father said. "I think it was a good change for him mentally."

The trade meant that the Floyds could no longer take two-hour drives to see their son's starts. Instead, they'd have to watch on the Internet.

Every now and then, though, he'll be in the area. Like yesterday, when he was in his hometown pitching against his childhood team. His mother was there keeping score next to her sick husband, who was holding a baseball glove and wearing a black White Sox cap.

"When we're here and the Orioles are playing, we're Orioles fans," Rodney Floyd said. "But when he comes down, you have to put on the White Sox hat."

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