Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays remember their first big-league hits

You always remember your first, right? • First kiss, first car, first concert, first love, first baseball game. • And, if you are lucky enough to make it to the majors, absolutely, positively, your first hit. • In honor of Taylor Motter getting his first last week, an infield single on a grounder to second base that years from now will be a screaming liner off the wall, we canvassed the Rays clubhouse for memories of other memorable first hits.

OF Brandon Guyer

May 6, 2011: 1st MLB at-bat, 2-run HR off Zach Britton (at Orioles)

A confluence of circumstance makes Guyer's story one of the best. He had just been called up to make his debut, which was going to be a one-game cameo. The Rays happened to be playing in Baltimore, near his hometown, so about 20 friends and relatives were in the stands. And his wife, Lindsay Murphy, was racing to get there from her job as a Washington, D.C., sportscaster, ending her segment on the 6 p.m. show with news of his promotion. As she was pulling into the parking lot, Guyer was stepping to the plate for his first at-bat, and it turned out to be quite a hit, as he smashed a two-run homer. "When you actually sit back and look at everything that happened and how it happened, it's really a bit surreal," Guyer said. "It's hard to put into words. Just a really, really cool moment." And he hasn't quite let Lindsay off the hook. "She was doing her job, she couldn't help it, she did everything she could," he said. "But it's fun every now and then to give her a hard time."

OF Kevin Kiermaier

May 17, 2013: 6th at-bat, infield hit off C.J. Wilson (at Angels)

"I was just kind of wondering if they were going to score it a hit or an error. My whole goal when I was a rookie was not to look like a rookie, so I didn't have a huge smile, I wasn't smiling ear to ear. I wanted to let these guys know I was all about business, even though I was happy to get that out of the way. It was a great feeling. You kind of work your whole minor-league career to get to that point where you can say, 'Okay, I'm in the major leagues and now I got a hit.' It's a really cool moment, and one you can't get back because it only happens once."

3B Evan Longoria

April 12, 2008: 3rd at-bat, RBI single off Daniel Cabrera (vs. Orioles)

As the Rays' top prospect — and having agreed to terms on a big-bucks long-term deal that would be announced a few days later — Longoria knew there would be a lot of expectations when he was called up 10 days into the season. "It seems like it was yesterday, so it's crazy that it was that long ago," he said. "I remember thinking that I got jammed really bad on my first at-bat on a two-seamer, and I wasn't going to let that happen again. There was a runner on second, and he threw another two-seamer. I hit it good, but I rolled it over and it squirted through the (shortstop) hole. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders. We've seen guys like Stephen Vogt, he waited so long (0-for-his-first-32 over two seasons). So just getting it out of the way, you were able to breathe a little easier. I didn't want to go up there and disappoint."

OF Steven Souza Jr.

April 15, 2014: 3rd at-bat, single off Dan Jennings (for Nats, at Marlins)

After seven years in the minors and overcoming some personal and professional challenges, Souza got an unexpected early season callup due to an injury, and he came through in his third chance as a late-inning replacement. "It was awesome," he said. "I couldn't stop smiling. I blacked out at one point. Then I asked for the ball, instead of letting the team do it. So everyone was laughing at me. But I wanted that ball. It was cool when I got back to the dugout, getting hugs from everybody. It was really cool."

1B coach Rocco Baldelli

March 31, 2003: 2nd at-bat, double off Pedro Martinez (vs. Red Sox)

"It was opening day, and when you get thrown out against Pedro Martinez in your first game, there's no time to really worry or think about anything. Either you start competing right away or you get left behind. I struck out in my first at-bat, and then I hit a first-pitch double down the leftfield line in my second at-bat. That was it. I got to second, and I think (Boston 2B) Todd Walker said something to me, but I was so wound up I didn't even know what he said. I just started yelling, 'Thanks!' And I kept talking to him, even after he walked away and ended the conversation."

INF Tim Beckham

Sept. 19, 2013: 1st at-bat, pinch-hit single off Tanner Scheppers (vs. Rangers)

"I just wanted to trust my approach and take a swing at it. It was a great feeling. Words can't really describe how I felt at the moment. I was pretty jacked up at the moment and eager to get my major-league career under way."

C Curt Casali

July 18, 2014: 1st at-bat, single off Kyle Gibson (at Twins)

As Casali got news of his unexpected callup from Triple A, his parents and brothers scrambled to get from Connecticut to Minnesota, as did girlfriend Rene Sobolewski, who was about to board a plane in Buffalo, N.Y., for a weekend with friends in Las Vegas. "Rene actually beat me to the hotel, and she had a chamomile tea from Starbucks to calm me down, which was really nice," Casali said. "I remember pretty much everything about it. Second pitch, it was a slider about a ball off the plate, and I felt like I closed my eyes and swung, but fortunately it went to right-center. It was exciting, but it was a relief to get it over with. We all went out that night. And I gave the ball to my mom."

First responders

Seventeen Rays got hits in their first tries, in their first MLB plate appearances:

Bobby SmithSingleMarch 31, 1998vs. Tigers
Mickey Callaway*SingleJune 12, 1999at Expos
Steve CoxDoubleSept. 19 1999at Rangers
Esteban Yan*Home runJune 5, 2000at Mets
Jared SandbergSingleAug. 7, 2001vs. Yankees
Paul HooverSingleSept. 8, 2001at A's
Felix EscalonaSingleApril 4, 2002vs. Tigers
Jonny GomesDoubleSept. 12, 2003at Yankees
James Shields*SingleJune 16, 2006at Phillies
Shawn RiggansSingleSept. 9, 2006vs. Twins
Andy Sonnanstine*SingleJune 10, 2007at Marlins
Fernando PerezSingleSept. 5, 2008vs. Jays
Brandon GuyerHome runMay 6, 2011at Orioles
Robinson ChirinosDoubleJuly 18, 2011vs. Yankees
Tim BeckhamSingleSept. 9, 2013vs. Rangers
Curt CasaliSingleJuly 8, 2014at Twins
Taylor MotterSingleMondayat Jays

* Pitchers

Short stops

. Questions to ponder: Who is more likely to be dropped first, C Hank Conger or OF Desmond Jennings? (Both have options and can be sent to Durham.) And RHP Steve Geltz (who has an option) or RHP Ryan Webb (who can refuse an assignment)?

. Terry Tomalin was known as our great outdoors writer, but he was a bigger baseball fan than most knew. Growing up in the New York area at the same time, we shared a common bond of the Mets as our childhood team, and his excitement when they made it back to the World Series in 2000 was, to say the least, entertaining. RIP, pal.

Rays rumblings

So, the Rangers and the Braves will get new stadiums before the Rays? … As part of their 1970s-themed Turn Back the Clock Night on June 18 with the Giants, the Rays will have ticket and concession specials, giveaways, promotions — and a postgame concert by the Fray, a rock band formed in 2002. … ESPN's Keith Law's first mock draft has the Rays taking high-ceiling/questionable work ethic and maturity SS Delvin Perez of Puerto Rico with the No. 13 pick on June 9. still has them on Georgia prep 3B Joshua Lowe. … Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson ranked seventh among the 30 broadcast teams in a reader vote. … Credit to ex-Rays HR hero Dan Johnson, who made his knuckleball pitching debut last week for the indy league Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish, allowing three runs, two hits and five walks in three innings.

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