Akil Baddoo joins Keith McDonald (who?), Jason Heyward and Will Clark on list of unforgettable first-AB homers

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Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo popped an reverse subject dwelling run within the third inning towards Cleveland on Sunday, becoming a member of fairly choose firm. He’s the 126th participant in MLB historical past to hit a home run in his first at-bat. It’s a really cool accomplishment. 

Two innings later, Baddoo tried and failed — similar to 16,860 different gamers in MLB historical past with a minimum of two profession plate appearances — to hitch Keith McDonald in a single of probably the most unique dwelling run golf equipment in MLB historical past. You’re in all probability considering, “Wait, who?”

McDonald, the previous Cardinals catcher, is one of solely two participant to hit dwelling runs in his first two profession PAs; St. Louis Browns outfielder Bob Nieman was the primary, popping two on Sept. 14, 1951, at Fenway Park.

MORE: 10 single-season MLB feats we’ll never see again

And that isn’t even probably the most unique home-run membership McDonald is a component of. He’s the only real member of the “at least three career hits, with every hit being a home run” membership. McDonald had three hits in his profession, and all three have been homers.  

By distinction, the 700-home run membership — consisting of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth — seems like a crowded NYC subway platform in pre-pandemic days. 

It’s actually fairly unimaginable.  

“That’s kind of the joke,” McDonald stated with amusing in a telephone dialog with Sporting News final fall. “I’m the greatest slugger of all time.” 

McDonald was, by his personal labeling, an “organizational guy.” Far from a high prospect — he was a Twenty fourth-round choose within the 1994 MLB Draft — McDonald was, in a fashion of talking, sort of like Crash Davis. He spent a complete of 9 years in Triple-A, usually dealing with a company’s high pitching prospects. With the Cardinals, he was primarily Rick Ankiel’s private catcher in 1999, each at Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Memphis. He caught extremely touted pitching prospects Chad Hutchinson and Matt DeWitt, too. 

So he was a giant half of the group’s future, even when the membership wasn’t precisely counting on his bat. McDonald had solely hit 28 dwelling runs in 463 profession minor league video games heading into the 2000 season, and he’d simply hit one in 2000 earlier than lastly getting the decision to the bigs at 27 years previous when backup catcher Eli Marrero landed on the DL. He made his debut in a sport the Cardinals have been main 13-3 towards the Reds. Andy Larkin was on the mound. 

“It’s Fourth of July in St. Louis. It’s packed, a day game,” McDonald stated. “I get in the box and you have that rush of emotions and stuff. You’re thinking, ‘I’m here! I did it!” First pitch was proper down the center for a strike, and I’m like, ‘Oh, dear God, I’ve bought to hit.’ The second pitch was about in the identical place, and I simply dropped the bat on the ball and hit a line drive foul to the correct. And then, ‘Oh, God, no. Now I need to pay attention. This isn’t only for enjoyable anymore.’ I labored it to 2-2 and he gave me a fastball. 

“After pitch three or four, I thought he might be tipping his pitches, so I guessed fastball, off how I thought I saw him grip the baseball. You try and get every advantage possible, right? I mean, without setting up TV monitors and banging trash cans. If you can figure out how somebody’s tipping pitches, or they get into a rut where in a certain count after it’s been set up a certain way, you’ve got to take advantage of that stuff best you can.”

McDonald deposited that fastball over the fence in left-center, a pair of rows deep. 

“I hit the ball off the end of the bat, actually,” McDonald stated. “That was the juiced ball year, like it was this past year. So I hit it off the end of the bat and I was like, ‘Awesome! Double! Get to second, you slow piece of s—.’ I tripped over first base and almost fell. It was pretty funny. I didn’t know it was gone until I saw the second-base umpire give the signal for the home run. I was just trying to get to second base.”

Two days later, McDonald bought what can be the one begin of his MLB profession, batting eighth within the Cardinals lineup. Mark McGwire was batting fourth, Eric Davis was fifth, Fernando Tatis was sixth and J.D. Drew was hitting seventh. Batting ninth? Ankiel. Osvaldo Hernandez was on the mound for the Reds

“Tony La Russa said, ‘This guy’s got a really good two-seamer, so he’ll probably start you off with that. Just be ready for it,’” McDonald stated. “He threw me a first-pitch two-seamer that was pretty nasty, down and in. Then he threw a get-even fastball and I hit it out. I kinda felt like that one was out, so I was able to enjoy that one a little more.”

McDonald’s home-run streak ended with a four-pitch stroll within the third inning. He had an RBI groundout within the fifth and struck out within the seventh. McDonald grounded out in his subsequent at-bat, towards the White Sox on July 13, then got here to the plate on the fifteenth with two outs within the ninth inning of a sport the Cardinals have been shedding 15-5. 

McDonald homered once more, a two-run shot that scored Eduardo Perez. 

That can be the final hit of his profession. McDonald was despatched down a number of days later, and he didn’t return to the bigs that yr. “The Cardinals gave me a nice Rolex for the second homer,” McDonald stated. “I still wear it. They gave it to me when I got sent down to Triple-A. The director of player personnel, Mike Jorgenson, came down and gave it to me before a game.”

He had two at-bats for the Cardinals in 2001, in late September, and that was the top of his MLB profession. McDonald performed Triple-A ball till 2006, transferring from the Cubs to the Pirates to the Rangers and lastly to the Yankees. He retired with a profession .333/.455/1.333 slash line within the majors, with a 329 OPS+ in 11 PAs overlaying eight video games. His profession minor league slash line: .264/.337/.400, with 78 homers and a .737 OPS in 984 video games. 

The report he shares with Nieman is an odd piece of historical past to carry. On one hand, he did one thing just one different individual in MLB historical past had ever completed. On the opposite hand, that membership may get crowded shortly. “Any day. Any single day,” McDonald stated. “And with everybody trying to hit home runs now?”

Last August, Keibert Ruiz, the rookie catcher for the Dodgers, hit a house run in his first AB.

“My first thought,” McDonald stated with amusing, “was, ‘God, I hope he doesn’t hit a second one.’ I’m the Dolphins. Hell, yeah, I am. Just like when New England lost in the Super Bowl. They couldn’t have been happier.

“It’s been fun to be bar-room trivia, basically.”

Of the 126 gamers to hit a house run of their first at-bat, solely two — heart fielder Earl Averill and pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm — wound up within the Hall of Fame, although a number of gamers are nonetheless lively. For 26 gamers, that debut dwelling run is their solely profession dwelling run, although six of these gamers, together with Baddoo, are nonetheless lively. Gary Gaetti has probably the most profession dwelling runs, at 360, of anybody within the first-AB membership, two forward of Carlos Lee. Jermaine Dye (325) is the one different one with a minimum of 300 homers, and solely 5 others completed with a minimum of 200: Will Clark (284), Mike Napoli (264), Tim Wallach (260), Averill (238) and Bill White (202). 

Today, we’re looking at some of the extra notable first-AB dingers. The entire list is here, should you’re curious. 

Off Hall of Fame pitchers

Making your major-league debut is troublesome sufficient with out having to face a dominating future Hall of Famer in your first AB. For all people apart from these two guys, apparently. 

Will Clark stepped to the plate for his debut, on Opening Day 1986, with butterflies in his abdomen as he waited to face the legendary Nolan Ryan fastball for the primary time. Instead, the primary pitch from Ryan was a curveball, which landed for a strike. Clark giggled and stated to the catcher, “Why is he throwing me a curveball?” The subsequent pitch was a fastball out of the zone, and The Express’ third pitch was a fastball on the outer half of the plate. Clark smacked it over the middle subject fence within the cavernous Astrodome — a spot the place only a few baseballs landed — for a jaw-dropping dwelling run. “I floated around the bases,” Clark stated in an interview years later, “touched home plate and pointed to my family in the stands.” Ryan might need already struck out 4,083 batters in his profession main into that at-bat, however the assured child batting second for the Giants couldn’t have cared much less. 

Randy Johnson had “only” 3,529 profession strikeouts — however 4 Cy Young awards, together with three in a row and on his method to a fourth consecutive win — when Marcus Thames stepped to the plate on June 10, 2002, batting within the No. 9 spot within the Yankees lineup. Johnson threw a excessive fastball and Thames jumped throughout it, ship it over the wall in left subject for a house run that ship the Yankees’ dugout into hysterics. The better part of the video is watching veteran coach Don Zimmer laughing uncontrollably as he tried to understand what simply occurred. 

Grand Slams

Welcome to the massive leagues, child. No stress, however the bases are loaded. What are you going to do? Only 4 occasions in MLB historical past, the reply has been “hit a grand slam.”

Kevin Kouzmanoff (Sept. 2, 2006) hit the very first pitch he noticed — a fastball up within the zone from Rangers starter Edinson Volquez — into the grassy space past the center-field wall at Ameriquest Field. The rookie, who hit .379 mixed at Double-A and Triple-A earlier than he was referred to as as much as the massive leagues, grew to become the primary participant in MLB historical past to hit a grand slam on the primary pitch he noticed within the majors. Boston’s Daniel Nava (June 12, 2010) was a 27-year-old rookie carrying No. 60 on his again when he duplicated Kouzmanoff’s feat, smacking the primary providing he noticed from Joe Blanton into the bullpen past Fenway Park’s wall in right-center. He wouldn’t hit one other MLB homer till May 14, 2012. 

Jeremy Hermedia (Aug. 31, 2005) swung and missed on the first pitch he noticed within the majors, additionally with the bases loaded, as a pinch-hitter within the seventh inning of a sport his Marlins trailed, 10-0. He watched a pitch from the Cardinals’ Alberto Reyes sail out of the strike zone, then swung on the third providing. Hermida didn’t miss this one. Hermida’s grand slam ended an extended, lengthy drought; earlier than his blast the one different debut at-bat grand slam was socked by Bill Duggleby, a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies on April 21, 1898. Duggleby had given up three runs within the first inning, however his second-inning grand slam apparently helped him on the mound, too, and the Phillies gained that sport, 13-4.

Back-to-back blasts

Those of us who love baseball like to say that the wonder of the game is that any day you’re on the ballpark or watching a sport on TV, you will have an opportunity to see one thing that’s by no means occurred earlier than, in a sport that’s been performed for greater than a century. 

Case in level: A random mid-August night time at Yankee Stadium in 2016, in a sport between the struggling Rays and the .500-ish Yankees. New York supervisor Joe Girardi wrote the names of two rookies into his lineup; Tyler Austin was batting seventh and Aaron Judge was batting eighth. Both have been making their MLB debuts. Matt Andriese, having a strong season (2.90 ERA) to that time, was on the mound for the Rays. With two outs within the second inning of a 0-0 sport, Austin fell behind within the rely, 0-2. He took a pair outdoors the zone and then fouled off a possible Strike Three. Andriese went outdoors with the sixth pitch of the at-bat, and Austin smacked a line drive down the right-field line, simply barely clearing the quick fence a number of toes above the 314 FT signal — a short-porch Yankee Stadium opposite-field particular. 

Judge, who had made a pleasant operating catch in proper subject within the first inning, got here up subsequent. Like Austin, he fell behind within the rely, 0-2. After a ball, Andriese left a 87-mph breaking pitch over the guts of the plate and Judge crushed it to lifeless heart. Unlike Austin’s dwelling run, this one — a 446-foot stitch-popping blast — would have been out of each MLB stadium. “A monster home run,” Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay screamed. “Back-to-back home runs by the Baby Bombers in their first big-league at-bats! Can you believe it?” It was the primary — and nonetheless solely — time teammates hit back-to-back dwelling runs of their MLB debuts. 

Prospect manufacturing

It’s no secret to say that some MLB debuts are extra extremely anticipated than others. That’s not a knock on the Keith McDonalds of the world, it’s simply to say that some prospects have extra eyes on them for that first AB. These guys delivered within the largest approach potential. 

This part has to start out with Jason Heyward, of course. He was the No. 14 total choose within the 2007 MLB Draft, and he excelled in his first couple years within the minors. By the time he earned the Opening Day begin in 2010 — batting seventh within the lineup — Baseball America had ranked Heyward because the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. His Braves have been at dwelling, and the Cubs had ace Carlos Zambrano on the mound. Atlanta jumped Zambrano early; 5 of the primary six batters reached base safely, and Heyward stepped to the plate with two runners on base. Zambrano’s first two choices have been off the plate, and his third was a fastball on the interior half of the plate. The sound of the bat assembly the ball left zero doubt what would occur. The ball exited the enjoying subject in a blink, going into the Braves bullpen — over the raised arms of the reduction corps — and giving Atlanta a 5-0 lead. It was a magical second. 

Kaz Matsui was a bona fide famous person in Japan earlier than he selected to play for the Mets in 2004, his Age 28 season. Matsui made his debut on Opening Day, batting leadoff and enjoying shortstop, and smoked the primary pitch he noticed from Russ Ortiz over the wall in heart subject. It was the beginning of an amazing day that included two doubles, two walks and three RBIs. Fun truth: Matsui homered in his first AB of 2005 and his first AB of 2006, too. Aside from the Heyward celebration at Turner Field, there might need been no greater first-AB homer celebration than the one at Wrigley Field for Willson Contreras’ debut on June 19, 2016. He’d batted .333 at Double-A the earlier yr and was batting .353 for Triple-A Iowa when he bought the decision to the bigs. Cubs followers have been excited. Contreras made his debut as a catcher within the ninth inning on June 17, then made his debut on the plate within the sixth inning two days later, pinch-hitting for starter Kyle Hendricks. The crowd at Wrigley gave him a standing ovation as he walked to the plate, and he drove the primary pitch he noticed over the ivy in heart subject.  

Just two years earlier, one other extremely touted Cubs prospect began his profession with a house run, however this one wasn’t at Wrigley. Jorge Soler made his debut batting fifth within the Cubs lineup on Aug. 27, 2014, and he drove a 2-1 pitch from Cincinnati’s Mat Latos over the fence. Still a rookie after solely 97 PAs in 2014, Soler was Baseball America’s No. 12 prospect heading into the 2015 season. Jurickson Profar has by no means fairly lived as much as the hype — he was BA’s No. 7 prospect heading into 2012 and the No. 1 prospect heading into 2013 — however he’s carved out a pleasant big-league profession. Profar was the youngest participant within the majors when he hit his no-doubt homer in his first AB for the Rangers on September 2, 2012. 

Pitchers who rake(d a minimum of as soon as)

Most pitchers, again of their prep days, have been fairly good hitters, too. But by the point they attain the key leagues, these expertise have usually diminished. Not for these guys, tho.

Few pitchers are extra vocal about their love of hitting than Adam Wainwright, and rightfully so. He’s popped 10 dwelling runs in his profession, and batted .262 or higher in a season thrice in his profession. Though he made his mark within the bigs as a starter, Wainwright was a reliever as a rookie in 2006, and he didn’t get an AB till his nineteenth sport within the majors. On May 24, 2006, Wainwright entered within the fourth inning and gave up two runs in his first inning. Manager Tony La Russa left him in to guide off the fifth anyway, needing a number of innings from his rookie. He took a mighty swing on the first pitch he noticed and drilled it into the stands down the left-field line for a house run. 

Hoyt Wilhelm bought his first at-bat in his third profession sport, pitching in reduction on April 23, 1952. His fourth-inning dwelling run was the third homer the New York Giants hit that inning, and Wilhelm added an RBI ground-out within the fifth. Wilhelm was 29 years previous, and wound up main the NL with a 2.43 ERA, regardless of making all 71 of his appearances as a reliever. The knuckleballer’s Hall of Fame profession lasted till 1972, however Wilhelm by no means hit one other homer and wound up with a profession .088 batting common in 432 ABs. 

Daniel Norris made his pitching debut with the Blue Jays in 2014, then was traded to Detroit on the 2015 commerce deadline. His fourth begin for the Tigers was an interleague sport at Wrigley Field, and the left-handed swinging Norris confronted lefty Jon Lester. Undaunted, he drove a 1-1 fastball to lifeless heart. Esteban Yan made his mound debut in 1996, however (primarily) as a reliever within the AL, didn’t step to the plate for the primary time till June 4, 2000, his 133rd profession sport. He began for the Rays towards the Mets at Shea Stadium and, positive sufficient, popped the primary pitch he noticed from Bobby Jones over the fence in left subject. Tommy Milone didn’t have to attend practically that lengthy; he began the Nationals’ sport towards the Mets on Sept. 3, 2011 and despatched the primary pitch he noticed from Dillon Gee over the fence for a three-run homer that gave his membership a 5-0 lead. 

First-pitch notables

We’ve talked a few couple first-pitch hackers already, however listed here are a number of different notables who had no intention of working the rely of their first journey to the MLB dish. All complete, 28 gamers homered on the primary pitch they noticed within the bigs. 

Akil Baddoo, as talked about up high, is the latest member of the first-AB dwelling run membership. The Tigers picked him within the Rule 5 draft this previous offseason, and he did sufficient this spring — a .325 common and 5 homers — to earn a spot on the 2021 Opening Day roster. And on the primary pitch he noticed on Sunday, he tried to show that was the correct alternative. Baddo went reverse subject off Cleveland’s Aaron Civale to guide off the underside of the third inning. Bert Campaneris led the AL in stolen bases in his first 4 full seasons within the majors, however he was all concerning the energy show in his first big-league sport, July 23, 1964. Not solely did Campaneris homer on the primary pitch he noticed, off Jim Kaat within the first inning, however he went deep within the seventh inning off Kaat, too. The second one was a two-run shot that tied the sport, 3-3. 

We opened with Keith McDonald’s dwelling run heroics, however he wasn’t the one Cardinals rookie to show first-AB energy in 2000. Just 13 days after McDonald’s debut dwelling run, Chris Richard went deep on his first pitch in Minnesota, simply over the outstretched glove of Jacque Jones in heart subject. I’ll let McDonald inform that story. 

“We get to the park early the next day, like rookies are supposed to, to get our work in before everybody else gets there,” McDonald stated. “And Kirby Puckett’s talking to Tony La Russa in our clubhouse. La Russa says, ‘Do you want to meet Kirby?’ And, heck yeah of course we did. He looks at Chris and says, ‘Are you the kid who hit that home run in his first at-bat yesterday?’ And Richie goes, ‘Yeah, that was me!’ Puckett says, ‘Son, you would have been 0-for-1 if I was playing center field.’ ”

Fun truth: Since the beginning of the 2000 season, eight Cardinals have hit dwelling runs of their first MLB at-bats — together with three reduction pitchers! The eight: McDonald (2000), Richard (2000), Gene Stechschulte (2001), Hector Luna (2004), Adam Wainwright (2006), Mark Worrell (2008), Paul De Jong (2017) and Lane Thomas (2019). 

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