It's July 27, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are only two games out of first place and 14 games above .500. Andrew McCutchen could be the Pirates first MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992, and even when he has an off-night it seems someone else steps up to play hero. Well, Starling Marte, the 23-year-old Dominican rookie played that hero against the Astros in a 5-3 win Thursday.
"I was telling the boys before the game in the dugout, if he throws a fastball in the middle, I'm going to take a hack at it," Marte told MLB.com through interpreter and first base coach Luis Silverio. "And that's what he did, and that's why I did."
That's right. First pitch = first home run. The kid's first plate appearance in The Show was a blast over Minute Maid Park's left-center wall off south paw Dallas Keuchel.
While Marte becomes the first Pirate to homer in his first big league at-bat since June 18, 1961 when Don Leppert hit a shot off St. Louis lefty Curt Simmons, you might be surprised how often such a feat has been done in Major League Baseball just in the past decade.
In fact, it happened twice just last season. J.P. Arencibia homered off his first pitch for the Blue Jays last year and Tommy Milone — a pitcher nonetheless — rocked a bomb off his first big league toss on September 3 of last year while with the Nationals.
Since 2000, 13 players have hit a home run off their first Major League pitch. The rest of that list includes Daniel Nava, Mark Saccomanno, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Adam Wainwright, Andy Phillips, Kaz Matsui, Gene Stechschulte, Marcus Thames, Chris Richard and Esteban Yan.
Now while Marte's first-pitch home run was amazing, and it was amazing — just ask his teammate McCutchen who had the same sentiment, "Pretty amazing … first pitch and all," said McCutchen following the game. But when you look at the aforementioned players of that players that have done the same, how many All-Stars do you see on that list? I see Wainwright, and he is a pitcher.
Everyone in Pittsburgh, and the Dominican Republic, has to be happy for the kid. But teammate Pedro Alvarez also kept it real, "Figure first-pitch fastball, Starling's going to be aggressive …" Alvarez said, shrugging.
Earl Averill and Hoyt Wilhelm — another pitcher — are the only two players in the history of Major League Baseball to be inducted into the Hall-Of-Fame who also hit home runs on their first at-bats. 29 Players have hit home runs off their first pitch in the history of the game. Of those players, Jay Bell has the most career home runs with 195 — none of them are Hall-Of-Famers.
Marte is one heck of a talent with a plethora of accolades, but this is just a fair warning to not get too excited too fast.
That being said, congrats on a very neat moment, kid!
Josh Helmuth is the editor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JHelmuth or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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