It’s impossible to blame Adam Macko for his reaction to getting a random call at 7 a.m. from a number he didn’t recognize.
Like many others would, he just let it ring.
A little while later, he got a text message from the same number, which made him realize he probably should have answered the call.
The call and text had been from Seattle Mariners director of player development Andy McKay, and he was looking to chat with Macko as soon as possible.
“I was like, ‘Uh oh, something is going on,’” the young pitcher told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “I didn’t really ever get phone calls from Andy – we’ve definitely talked quite a bit but not usually over the phone so I knew that there was something off.”
The pair connected, with McKay telling Macko that there was a deal on the table that the Mariners couldn’t refuse, and that the Stony Plain, Alberta native was on the move to the Toronto Blue Jays in a package deal for All-Star outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.
It was a surprising move for Macko, who thought he was moving up the Mariners’ depth chart quickly, especially with a trade of another left-hander, Brandon Williamson, during the season.
“Once he was traded, that maybe opened up some doors for me and maybe gave me more of a chance of being where I wanted to be sooner,” Macko said.
“That move maybe showed a little trust in me, so I kind of took that and I was ready to do what they needed me to do and I was excited for the potential opportunities that were coming up.”
Instead, he was heading east to a new team, albeit one he had been paying close attention to since he was a kid.
THANKFUL FOR THE SUPPORT
Macko’s story is well-documented: originally from Slovakia, his family moved to Ireland before settling in Canada.
With the Blue Jays being Canada’s team in the majors, he took a particular shining to them, but also believed he would play with any team to achieve his goal of being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
As a youngster, he studied YouTube videos of fellow lefthanders like Chris Sale, eventually finding his way to Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, where he caught the eye of the Mariners, who took him in the seventh round of the 2019 MLB Draft.
After more than three years with the organization, he admits it was an emotional goodbye.
Macko’s first call was to his parents.
“We had a good chat,” he said. “It was a little scary to be traded, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but after talking with them and talking with my friends and girlfriend and her family, I knew it was a good sign for me – it was just a little hard to see it initially.”
Once the news became public, Macko’s phone started lighting up with texts and calls from family, friends, supporters, coaches and old teammates.
“I’m very fortunate to have a lot of people around me that care and that follow my journey and that reach out to me when these things happen,” he says.
“That whole day, I was just really grateful for everything really.”
A REUNION IN THE MAKING
One text particularly caught his attention: it was from former Vauxhall teammate and current Blue Jays prospect Damiano Palmegiani.
A 14th round selection of the Blue Jays in the 2021 MLB Draft, the hard-hitting infielder was coming off a great year.
In 118 games split between Single-A Dunedin and High-A Vancouver, Palmegiani hit .239 with 24 home runs and 83 runs batted in, on his way to being named the Organizational Third Baseman of the Year.
Upon hearing the news about his former roommate being traded to his team, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound hopped on his phone to drop Macko a quick text.
“When I got to the Blue Jays, we would make jokes like, ‘What if one of us gets traded and we play together, that’d be sick, right?’” Palmegiani laughed. “I saw the news and it’s big news in Blue Jays land, but selfishly, I was thinking of playing with Adam again.”
Knowing he would be part of the flood of messages, the Lethbridge Bulls alum waited patiently for a response.
Eventually, the pair connected and it was just like old times, culminating in a reunion in Florida for physical assessments in December.
“It’s kind of a surreal moment to see your teammate from high school from many years ago that I haven’t really seen in a while and to be in a professional uniform and him kind of welcoming me to his team,” Macko said. “We just hung out, kind of laid back, got worked on at the field – it was really amazing to see him again.”
Both are hoping it won’t be the last time.
MOVING ON UP
With Spring Training upon us, both Macko and Palmegiani have their eyes set on taking the next steps in their respective baseball journeys.
Despite posting an 0-2 record with a 3.99 earned-run average and 60 strikeouts in eight outings with the Everett AquaSox in 2022, Macko wasn’t overly impressed with his performance and wants to bounce back.
“I think I can definitely do a little better, which I’ve been working on,” he said. “I’m kind of hard on myself in that sense in that I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my performance.”
Macko is wanting to stay in games longer and get his body in the right shape so that he doesn’t have to deal with any fatigue or injuries as he continues to adjust to life as a professional ball player.
He says the Blue Jays are doing everything they can to make sure he realizes his goals and becomes a key contributor in years to come.
“The program I’ve been given and the details in that program are really awesome and something that will really prepare me for the next couple of months of the season,” Macko said. “I’m excited about it and feel good about it.”
He adds he would also like to work on his control so that he can rack up more strikeouts while walking fewer batters.
As for Palmegiani, the College of Southern Nevada alum wants to build upon the success of this past year.
“It was perfect going into the offseason, seeing that I have some stuff to build on and some stuff to work on,” he said.
“I felt like there was a lot more in the tank and I really was just scratching the surface, so we’re just trying to everything out.”
Palmegiani also enjoyed getting to play in front of his hometown fans in Vancouver, as he remembers being the kid going to Canadians games at Nat Bailey Park.
He would love to move up the organizational ladder, but also realizes that where they end up is out of their hands, so he’s prepared to put in the work, no matter the level.
“All I can really control is doing all I can to prepare myself to be the best player I can be and to build off the good and work on the stuff that I needed to,” Palmegiani said. “When I get to Spring Training, I will just show the best version of myself.”
Macko is in the same mindset, simply focusing on controlling the strike zone and making it as impossible as he can for the team to keep him grounded in the minors.
Given that both spent a good portion of last season in High-A, it’s quite plausible that they may continue their journey together.
“We’re still texting and talking about how excited we are for this year and potentially being on the same team and play together again,” Macko smiled. “That’d be really cool.”
It’s something many at Vauxhall and around Alberta would also love to see.