SAN DIEGO (AP) — Joe Musgrove took a moment away from the mayhem of the clubhouse celebration after the San Diego Padres clinched a playoff spot to reflect on where his career has been and where he wants it to go.
The big right-hander will forever be remembered as the hometown kid who threw the first no-hitter in franchise history, in just his second start with the Padres. He pitched in his first All-Star Game this year and then signed a $100 million, five-year contract.
Musgrove helped the Padres clinch an NL wild-card spot, just the seventh playoff berth in the franchise’s mostly forgettable 54-year history. His ultimate goal is winning another World Series ring that he would consider more legitimate than the one he won with the scandal-tinged Houston Astros in 2017.
“It’s a been a long time since we’ve been in this spot,” said Musgrove, who grew up cheering for the Padres and his favorite player, 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, whose No. 44 he now wears. “It’s pretty crazy how it all worked out. I end up back here in a year where we’ve got a team like we have to make it this far.”
The no-hitter at Texas on April 9, 2021, burnished his name in franchise lore and endeared him to the long-suffering fan base. It also netted him free beer for life from Ballast Point Brewing Co. and his own beer, No-No Joe Double IPA from Resident Brewing, which was in plentiful supply during Sunday’s clubhouse celebration.
“After the no-hitter, that moment was massive for me, for the city, for everybody, but that’s not what I want to be remembered by,” Musgrove said. “I want to be one of the guys that help bring a championship to the city, especially my own hometown.”
Musgrove’s baseball journey has come full circle since he pitched at Grossmont High in suburban El Cajon, where his parents, Mark and Diane, still live.
Musgrove went through three other organizations before getting to the Padres. Before his pro career began, he had to mature faster than most high school kids do after his father was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that left him paralyzed for several months.
Then a high school sophomore, Musgrove took turns with his siblings spending long days and nights at Mark’s bedside in the hospital and then a care center. It got to the point that Mark and Joe had conversations about what was expected of the son if the father didn’t make it.
That’s when baseball came into sharp focus.
“The one thing that offered Joe a reprieve was going to baseball practice and he would tell me, ‘No, dad, I’ll stay here,’ and I said, ‘No, Joe, you need to get away and go out and clear your head and whatever happens is going to happen whether you’re here or not,'” said Mark Musgrove, who had been a policeman in San Diego and neighboring National City, and then a private investigator. “So, he would go to practice and I think he found a lot of solitude and a lot of mental relief, emotional relief, by going there.”
The time away from the hospital was indeed beneficial.
“That kind of showed me what baseball was for me in my life,” Joe Musgrove said. “I’d always had fun with it and loved it because I was good at it but never really understood what part in my life it really had. It was all the joy I had.”
It would be six months before the Musgroves got clarity on what Mark’s recovery would be like. Money was getting tight and Joe considered getting a job to help out.
His dad said no.
“He continued to push me toward baseball because he could see the potential I had,” Musgrove said. “We didn’t know it would look like this, but what could come of it could be something similar.”
Musgrove had signed a letter of intent to play for Tony Gwynn at San Diego State. But after the Toronto Blue Jays took him with the 46th pick in the 2011 draft, he signed for a $500,000 bonus. That allowed him to help with household expenses and buy back his parents’ house from a family friend who had stepped in to help them avoid foreclosure.
He was traded to the Astros and made his big league debut in 2016. He got the win in relief in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, which he commemorated on a vanity license plate on the Range Rover he bought his parents. He was traded to Pittsburgh and then acquired by the Padres in January 2021.
Mark Musgrove cheered for the Padres as a kid and still remembers many of the players from the expansion 1969 team. Now he, Diane and other family members watch Joe’s starts from seats on the third base side of Petco Park.
“Number one, it’s good having him home,” Mark Musgrove said. “It’s like going to watch him play in any other venue while he was growing up. He enjoys being here. He really enjoys San Diego as a home and a place where he can ply his trade. The fit’s perfect.”
Musgrove (10-7, 2.93 ERA, 184 strikeouts) is just the 13th Padres pitcher to have 30 starts, 10 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA.
He knows he has a rare opportunity via his five-year contract to try to win a World Series with his hometown team. He tries to distance himself from the 2017 title with the Astros because of the sign-stealing scandal.
“I still don’t feel great about wearing that ring around or telling people that I was a World Series champion on that team,” he said. “I want one that feels earned and that was a true championship. So that’s the goal.”
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