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August 22, 2012

Pebble Hunting

The Shame of Your First Big-League Hit

by Sam Miller

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There are certain things in baseball that are just always the same. Player gets his first big-league hit. Somebody tosses the ball to the first- or third-base coach, who rolls it into the dugout. If a teammate picks it up before the bat boy does, he’ll pretend to flip the ball into the crowd. The teammates will scuff up a ball and pretend that it is the one going on the player’s mantle. Predictable stuff that makes you realize how much of your life you’ve spent watching baseball, and perhaps how much you hate it.

There are details that vary, though. Like when Irving Falu got his first hit, as he was running to third base, there was a shot of his family. There was a shot of his mother, joyful, sitting near a man who is, I have concluded, not at all: 

And there is the placement of Corey Brown's first-hit home run, cruising just over the last true .000 he’ll ever have beside his face.

And there are the awkward shots of players who have been at first base thousands and thousands of times before, but for once forget how to give a fist bump or make their face look like a human face.

("Thanks friend.")

But the best first hits are the terrible ones. The terrible first hits corral us all into the same celebratory delusion despite hahaha look at that hit. Each of the following five players got the scuffed-up ball treatment. They all got the fake-throw into the stands treatment. They all got lots of high fives in the dugout, and they all had lots of text messages on their phone after the game, and they all saved this baseball (or gave it to somebody special) and they all felt, for a few minutes at least, the insecurity that defines their inner thoughts dissipate. Because they did this:

Quintin Berry
Deserves credit for: Barreling the ball up.
Deserves credit for: Playing a sport at which everybody is terrible.
Deserves credit for: Running into the second baseman and not, say, the catcher, in which case he would have probably still been out.
Demerits for: Bunting a ball 95 feet in the air at two opponents.

MLB highlight description: “Quintin Berry pops a bunt that gets through the right side of the infield, earning a double.”
Accurate description: Ball successfully avoided by fleeing defensemen.

Ryan Flaherty
Deserves credit for: Laying down the sacrifice
Deserves credit for: Sacrificing himself
Deserves credit for: Gettin’ the sac down
Demerits for: Not actually trying to get a hit.

MLB highlight description: “Ryan Flaherty tallies his first major league hit with a bunt single.”
Accurate description: Everybody covers first base while Ryan Flaherty runs on the grass instead of the dirt.

Blake Lalli
Deserves credit for: Playing in the majors, where the lights are very bright.
Deserves credit for: “Very well placed,” says Bob Brenly.
Deserves credit for: “Perfect arc on that ball,” Bob Brenly literally says.
Demerits for: Playing for a team that rarely turns on the lights.

MLB highlight description: “Blake Lalli caps a four-run ninth.”
Accurate description: Travis Buck mistakes baseball for bee. 

Anthony Gose
Deserves credit for: Nothing
Deserves credit for: Seriously not one thing.
Deserves credit for: Okay, being fast
Deserves credit for: Appearing to be disgusted that the official scorer rules this a hit.
Demerits for: “Hey, I threw the wrong baseball can you just return it to me please?”

MLB highlight description: “Anthony Gose hustles for a bunt single.”
Accurate description: Boone Logan still considering his options, will get back to you.

Hernan Perez
Deserves credit for: This is the ball he hit in his first major-league at-bat:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deserves credit for: Making adjustments in his second at-bat.
Deserves credit for: Not doing that first thing again
Demerits for: Trying to convince his manager that he can hit .500 on groundballs to third base forever, getting sent down the next day.

MLB highlight description: “Hernan Perez reaches on an infield single.” 
Accurate description: Ball hit crappily. Entire sport exposed as farce.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

7 comments have been left for this article.

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