By: Daniel Wilkins
In baseball, one of the first strokes of success usually comes for batters when they hit their first Major League home run. Even if you’re not a particular power threat, like Rafael Furcal, he still hit four homers in his 2000 rookie campaign. In fact, those four blasts (along with other great stats) brought him to the Rookie of the Year award in the NL. For some, it takes a while to get that first home run, while others waste no time digging into the surface. Here are some notable examples of players who hit home runs on the very first at-bat of their career:
Two Rookies, Two Homers, Two At-Bats
2, 2, 2. On August 13, 2016, rookie infielder Tyler Austin went yard in his first career at-bat against the Rays. As always, Yankees fans were excited, but there was a much better prospect waiting on deck. That “prospect” was future ROY winner Aaron Judge, who also hit a home run in his first at-bat. Austin and Judge became the first pair of rookies to hit their first MLB home runs in back-to-back at-bats. Sure, it’s a complicated record, but still a record no less.
Pitchers’ Yard Work
Sure, it’s not astronomically rare that a pitcher goes yard occasionally. Just ask Madison Bumgarner, Mike Hampton, or Carlos Zambrano. But, something that is astronomically rare is a pitcher hitting a home run in their first career at-bat. Despite never starting a game over his 14-year career, Guillermo Mota had his turn as an Expos rookie in 1999. Tigers pitcher and cancer survivor Daniel Norris did the same at Wrigley Field in 2015. More interesting is Adam Wainwright, Esteban Yan, and Tommy Milone, which are important for a different reason...
MLB Pitch #1
In many life experiences, the first try is usually not successful. Usually, trial and error leads you to the correct answer a bit further down the road. Even when I say that “they wasted no time”, this is the prime example of not wasting time. See, 28 players have hit their first career homer on the very first ball hurled to them in a Major League ballpark, and if that isn’t fantastic, I don’t know what is. The three pitchers from the aforementioned segment are in this club as well.
Yan was a relief pitcher who homered off Mets pitcher Bobby Jones in 2000. Wainwright, six years later, took Giants arm Noah Lowry deep to left. Finally, in 2011, Tommy Milone smacked a three-run shot into the Nats bullpen off of another Mets arm, Dillon Gee.
However, many notable hitters have hit home runs on their very first pitch as well. Some notable names include:
- Marcus Thames (2002, off of Randy Johnson)
- Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006, grand slam off of Edinson Volquez)
- Daniel Nava (2010, grand slam off of Joe Blanton)
- J.P. Arencibia (2010, off of James Shields)
- Starling Marte (2012, off of Dallas Keuchel)
- Eddie Rosario (2014, off of Scott Kazmir)
- Willson Contreras (2016, off of Kyle Hendricks)
Obscurity At Its Finest
If I’m going to make these rare feats into a series, I might as well keep the signature segment:
Obscurity at its finest.
While many notable players have gone deep in their first at-bat, many less notable players are in the same pool. Here are some examples:
- Andre David (1984, retired after 38 career games in 1986)
- Junior Felix (1989, .730 OPS after 6 disappointing years)
- Also hit first-pitch homer
- Jay Gainer (1993, retired after playing 23 games with the 1993 Rockies)
- Mitch Lyden (1993, retired after playing six games with the 1993 Marlins)
- This home run would be his only MLB blast, only RBI, and one of three career hits.
- Garey Ingram (1994, retired after 82 games with LAD. Also had .685 OPS)
- Alex Cabrera (2000, retired after 31 career games with the 2000 D-backs)
- Alex is the father of Ramon Cabrera, free agent catcher. After 2 partial seasons, Ramon already has a better resume than his father.
- Luke Hughes (2010, now plays in the AUBL after .609 MLB OPS)
- Brett Pill (2011, retired after 2016 season in KBO)