COLUMBIA -- When he's behind the plate, Landon Powell has a tradition. If a strikeout ends an inning, the Oakland A's catcher tosses the baseball into the stands to a kid.
But Sunday, after a strikeout of Tampa's B.J. Upton ended the eighth, Powell held onto the ball. He subtly carried it into the dugout and shoved it into his equipment bag.
"There was no way I was flipping that one into the stands," the former South Carolina standout told ESPN on Monday. "I kept it, just in case."
At that point, A's starter Dallas Braden was three outs shy of the 19th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.
Braden would record the 25th, 26th and 27th consecutive outs to move into very select company in the record books.
"I couldn't be happier for him," said Powell, who had toiled in the club's minor league system with Braden. "He's a guy that deserves it. He's worked really hard. He's overcome a lot of things in his life, the past couple of years in baseball and in his background.
"It's just a great story, especially on Mother's Day. I don't think you could've written a better script."
Braden's mother died when he was in high school. Skin cancer claimed Jodie Atwood's life when she was just 39.
From there on, Braden's grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, raised him. Lindsey was on hand Sunday to share in the moment with her grandson. Afterward, Braden invited her down to the field, where they shared a long, tearful embrace.
Powell said he knew early, by the fourth inning, that Braden was locked in.
"The umpire was giving us a couple of inches off the plate. I knew early he was going to go deep in the game, and I felt like we were going to have a really good chance to win the game,"
Powell said. "It wasn't until the sixth or seventh that I really started saying, 'What if? What if no one gets a hit?' "
The day started with Powell and Braden exchanging a few words between innings, about what pitches and locations were working. By the fifth, the conversing was done.
"That's just what you're supposed to do," Powell said. "You've got to let them keep doing what's working and don't mess with them at all."
Powell admitted he got more and more antsy as the game progressed.
"I wouldn't even let myself look at the scoreboard," he said. "I didn't want to see any zeroes or anything. I just stayed as focused as I could and kept it loose, like it was a normal game and nothing was going on."
Powell might not have even been part of Sunday's game if not for an injury to A's starting catcher Kurt Suzuki. Powell was recalled from Triple-A in late April after Suzuki went to the disabled list.
That's sort of fitting, considering Powell's progress to the majors has been sidelined, again and again, by injuries. He has dealt primarily with significant knee injuries.
Powell, a first-round pick in the 2004 draft, is hitting just .143 in 21 at-bats this season. The 28-year-old hit .223 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 46 games last year, his first real experience in the big leagues.
In his final three years at South Carolina, from 2002-04, Powell went to three College World Series. He played a vital role in each trip to Omaha. He's a fixture on many career batting categories at USC.
Things haven't gone to plan so far at the professional level, but Powell now has something very impressive to include on his resume.
His name is in the ledger beside Braden's after the words "caught by."
Following the game, Powell had Braden autograph the baseball he had smuggled after the eighth inning.
Braden signed it, "We were perfect."