On the mound, Francisco Carrillo's focus is 60 feet in front of him. Off it, his mind at times drifts nearly 4,000 miles away.
The Boise Hawks relief pitcher has a little extra motivation as he tries to move through the minor league ranks - his 10-month-old son, Francisco Yadier, and his wife, Rhina, live back home in Venezuela.
Being far away can cause some tears on both ends of the phone when Carrillo calls home, but it provides inspiration, too.
"It's very difficult, but at the same time I'm able to be here playing baseball, trying to reach my goals and help them through that," Carrillo said through hitting coach Jesus Feliciano, who translated.
Carrillo is in his first season pitching in the United States after throwing in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela the past two seasons for the Cubs' Summer League teams.
He was able to spend plenty of time with his family during his son's first six months, but now near-daily phone calls, emails and a rare Skype session are a substitute.
"With everything going on in Venezuela, that's gotta be hard in itself, and being here trying to make ends meet in the lower levels of the minors, it's not easy," Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said. "But his attitude is impressive, he's very mature, and he's a very likable guy."
Once the 24-year-old Carrillo's season ends, he will get the chance to get back home, where civil unrest has met mass protests, violence and economic strife. But before that, he's hoping to continue down the path toward being able to support his family and maybe one day bring them closer to him.
In nine appearances with the Hawks over 16[0xb7] innings, Carrillo has 22 strikeouts to just two walks with a 2.20 ERA.
"His aggressiveness with his ability to throw strikes, that's really stood out," Van Tol said. "We haven't had many situations where we've needed him to be our closer, but he's that sort of guy. You can trust him to go out and put zeroes on the scoreboard."
Last week, Carrillo bought some Hawks gear he plans on sending to the younger Francisco, and he often sends photos of himself in action with the team.
"I'm happy I get to hear his voice - he can say 'papa' now - and he can hear mine," Carrillo said. "It's not the same, but at least I have that."
Van Tol noted that Carrillo is aware that as one of the older players on the team, his margin of error is slim. However, he also noted that if he can continue performing well, he likely will move up as a reliable late-inning reliever who can be counted on as teams make playoff pushes. For now, Carrillo is simply relishing his new experience, even if it's far from home.
"Just thankful for the opportunity. I feel blessed right now with my family and how I've been able to pitch so far," Carrillo said.
HAWKS 8, INDIANS 4
A wild five-run eighth inning gave Boise a win over Spokane on Wednesday night. On one throw, the Hawks went from staring down a loss to comfortably ahead. Down 4-3 with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Jason Vosler grounded to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Kiner-Falefa tossed to second baseman Seth Spivey to force out Alex Tomasovich, but Spivey's throw to first - which would have got Vosler out - was off target for an error. Justin Marra and Chesny Young scored to take the lead.
Calvin Graves, Jeffrey Baez and Rashad Crawford then added two-out RBIs to give the Hawks the final differential. It was Boise's fourth straight win and third straight over Spokane. All nine Hawks batters registered hits in the game, getting two each from Marra and Crawford. In his Hawks debut, reliever Tommy Thorpe was perfect in the seventh and eighth innings, picking up the win.
The victory kept Boise well within striking distance for a Northwest League playoff spot, earned by the top team in each division at the halfway point (after July 21's games). Boise's win let the Hawks remain within a game of Hillsboro for the top spot in the NWL's South Division.