Dallas Braden ready to put perfect game behind him

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A few hours after throwing his perfect game, Dallas Braden was back to being the kid from Stockton, Calif., hanging out with his dog and fish.

"I went home and chipped around on my putting green, watched my dog chase the balls around because none of them went in the hole," Braden said Tuesday before the Oakland Athletics played their first game since the left-hander's gem. "Fed the fish and went over to a family's house and had a Mother's Day barbecue."

Braden grew up in Stockton, the son of a single, working mother who died of skin cancer when he was a high school senior. But he did get to share the 19th perfect game in major league history with his beloved grandmother, who was in the stands Sunday, and his teammates, who knew how special it was for him.

Instead of jubilant screaming and jumping around, there was heartfelt emotion in the clubhouse after Braden threw the A's first perfect game since Hall of Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter accomplished the feat on May 8, 1968, against the Minnesota Twins.

"When it was over, his teammates, his coaching staff, everybody huddled around him, grandma on the field, you could feel the magnitude of what he really did," manager Bob Geren said.

"Baseball's been my safe haven and the clubhouse is the physical sanctuary," Braden said. "If I'm going to be a good teammate, they should know what kind of person I am, so they know my background. ... They all know what that day means for me. It means a lot to me that they understood what it meant."

Braden described the past two days as hectic and a "rat race" being pulled in so many different directions. But he said it was fun and a great experience.

He did a Top 10 list for David Letterman's show Tuesday and is set to be on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.

"That's a magazine you grow up reading. Well, I didn't really read Sports Illustrated, I thumbed through the pictures," he said. "But that's pretty cool, my mug is going to be on that magazine."

But Braden said he's now trying to focus on his next start, Friday night at the Los Angeles Angels.

"You have to move on, have a quick memory, good, bad or indifferent, no matter what," he said. "Got to go pitch against the Angels in four days. That's what I'm thinking about."

By the time Braden looked at his phone in the clubhouse after Sunday's game, he already had 265 text messages and 123 voice mails. During Monday's flight to Texas for the three-game series, Braden got 146 more text messages.

There was no communication from Yankees star Alex Rodriguez. Before his perfect game, Braden was best known outside of Oakland for his public spat with the slugger. Now he's part of baseball history.

"I guess A-Rod said it best, it's good to be noticed and recognized for things you do on the field. Obviously, that's always a positive," Braden said. "That's why I live in Stockton, because I go home and I can be me there."

One person Braden did talk to was White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, who tossed the majors' previous perfect game last season, also against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"It's pretty gracious of him to take the time and make the phone call," Braden said. "He congratulated me, said welcome to the club and to just keep plugging away for the rest of the year."

With a fastball he describes as "88 (mph) on a good day," the 26-year-old Braden pitches to contact. He struck out six against the Rays, and let his defense do the rest.

"They did everything they could, putting the ball in play," teammate Coco Crisp said. "But it was one of those perfect days, perfect moment situations that worked out for Dallas. It couldn't have happened to a better guy. Everybody roots for him. He's one of those guys, as soon as you meet him, you like him."

Braden, a 24th-round draft pick in 2004 with a career record of 18-23, will be viewed a little differently now. He said he always believed he could be a major leaguer.

"It was either that or asking you if you want it supersized," Braden said. "You'd always like to think you can achieve every goal you set for yourself. A lot of curveballs come in life. It's a matter of whether or not you can foul them off and keep going."