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Tampa native Kyle Tucker returns to the Trop as an Astro

Rays-Astros: Plant High product Kyle Tucker will be on the Astros bench to start Game 3.
Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker (3) leads off first base during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 in Houston. Tucker attended Plant High School in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker (3) leads off first base during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 in Houston. Tucker attended Plant High School in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Oct. 7, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — If Kyle Tucker makes an appearance for the Astros in Monday’s ALDS Game 3, a handful of family and friends will be on hand to watch.

Tucker, a Tampa native and Plant High product, grew up going to Rays games. Born in 1997, he is part of the generation that never knew a time without the Rays.

The Devil Rays’ first season was 1998, when he was only a year old. Tucker remembers making the trip across Howard Frankland Bridge a few times every season to watch the likes of Rocco Baldelli and Evan Longoria.

“I grew up watching Rays baseball a lot,” Tucker said. “Watching either on TV or I’d come out to some games.”

After Tucker hit .484 with 10 home runs his senior year at Plant, the Astros drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the June 2015 MLB amateur draft, just three picks after they took All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman.

One reason why Houston drafted him? It already knew the Tucker family well.

“We had his brother (Preston) on our team,” Hinch said. “We knew (Kyle) was a rising star in the game.”

Preston Tucker, Kyle’s older brother, also played baseball at Plant before continuing his career at the University of Florida. He was on the Astros roster in 2015 when the team decided to draft Kyle.

Tucker decided to sign with the Astros, foregoing his own commitment to play baseball at UF. Over the next three years, the outfielder climbed the prospect rankings ladder and earned Astros organizational minor league player of the year awards in 2017 and 2018.

Tucker made his debut with the Astros in July 2018, but he played in only 28 major-league games that season. He entered 2019 as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, per Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, but spent most of the year at Triple-A.

The Astros recalled Tucker on Sept. 2. After posting an .857 on-base-plus-slugging percentage over the last month of the season, he made Houston’s ALDS roster.

“When he got to the big leagues in September, he took a lot of feedback very seriously about how to play, how to be a big-leaguer,” Hinch said. “He earned his way into the starting lineup in Game 2.”

Tucker started Saturday’s game in right field, going 0-for-3 with a walk in the Astros 3-1 win over the Rays. Hinch said Tucker would not start game three on Monday, but he will be available off the bench.

If his name is called, Tucker will be ready to play in front of his hometown crowd.

“I’ll have some family here, some friends to come out and support me,” Tucker said. “It will be a lot of fun.”

Tampa native Kyle Tucker and Astros first base coach Don Kelly chat after their workout session Sunday at Tropicana Field. [LUIS SANTANA | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]

Contact Ryan Kolakowski at rolakowski@tampabay.com. Follow @ryan_kolakowski

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