Even with more than 30,000 fans creating their usual din in the Sunday sunshine, it didn't take long for people at T-Mobile Park to realize where the family and friends of George Kirby were sitting for his Major League Baseball debut.

A boisterous group of more than 30 people, including his parents, two sisters, aunts and uncles and about 15 to 20 of his former teammates from high school and Elon University made their presence known from the first pitch until well after he finished with six shutout innings in the Mariners' 2-1 win.

"They made a promise to me," Kirby said. "They said, 'The day you get called up, we're going to be there.' They kept their promise. Pretty awesome."

The unofficial George Kirby fan club were focused on every pitch with cellphones videoing his first pitch. When he fell behind 2-0 to leadoff hitter Brandon Lowe and battled back to strike him out with a 90-mph slider, they exploded in celebration with hugs and high-fives.

The teammates had a bit of a ritual after each strikeout, mobbing together for a huddle of high-fives.

They also provided multiple chants and cheers, including "Hip, Hip, Jorge!"

"I've been hearing that for years," he said.

They made the ROOT Sports broadcast on multiple occasions as well as the Mariners video board.

So could Kirby hear them?

"I did," he said. "Usually, I kind of zone that stuff out, but I heard them pretty good today."

One of his best friends, Dean, was wearing a black T-shirt that said "'Kirb' your enthusiasm" with an outline of a pitcher throwing a baseball.

"We were rivals in high school and ended up going to the same college (Elon)," Kirby said.

Those shirts date back to Kirby's days at Rye (New York) High School.

The mother of another buddy, Tim, designed and made those shirts.

Kirby let Dean know he had expectations of seeing it for his start.

"I was like, 'Dude, you better wear that shirt here,'" Kirby said. "And he did."

After taking a Gatorade bath from teammates with his postgame on-field interview, then getting doused by baby powder in the clubhouse while talking to the media about his outing, Kirby finally got to meet up with his cheering section on the field of T-Mobile Park. They mobbed him in a huddle of hugs and cheers. His mom, Linda, wiped away tears while his father, also named George, beamed with pride. They took pictures and celebrated a dream coming true.

"Really excited for him and his family," manager Scott Servais said. "I can only imagine how they feel tonight. They'll enjoy it and have a good night in Seattle for sure."

Servais heard them throughout the game.

"I give them a ton of credit," Servais said. "Those guys, his buddies, were up there making some noise, which is great. That's exactly the way it should be to have those people that have meant so much to him, his career and his life here to enjoy it with him. That was awesome."

Notes

* After working a first-inning walk, Julio Rodriguez stole second base to give him 10. He leads MLB in stolen bases.

* To make room for Kirby on the active roster, reliever Riley O'Brien was optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma. O'Brien, a Shorewood High standout and grandson of local legend Johnny O'Brien, pitched a scoreless inning in Saturday's loss to Tampa Bay.

* With O'Brien appearing in Saturday's game along with right-hander Wyatt Mills, a Spokane native pitching an inning, and outfielder Stuart Fairchild playing in an inning late in the game, the Mariners had three Washington-born players appear in the same game for the first time since Sept. 17, 2016, when infielder Willie Bloomquist (Bremerton) and pitchers Eric O'Flaherty (Walla Walla) and Sean White (Pullman) played together.



___ (c)2022 The Seattle Times Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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