Hitting a home run in your first career at-bat is a dream for any MLB player. These four New York Mets lived it.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Well, the best first impression to make in baseball is to hit a home run. For these four New York Mets, they had a chance to show off their home run trot immediately.
On August 27, 1974, Benny Ayala made Mets history when he went yard in his first big league plate appearance. It was the first of three hit as a member of the Amazins and one of only 38 home run trots he ever put on display.
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In a game with Tug McGraw starting, the Mets defeated the Houston Astros by a score of 4-2. Ayala started the game batting sixth with left field as his position.
Ayala’s short-lived career at Shea Stadium ended when the Mets traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1977. In 1980, now with the Baltimore Orioles, he hit a career-high 10 home runs.
The next Metropolitan player to hit a home run in his first opportunity was Mike Fitzgerald. Nearly a decade after Ayala’s round-tripper, Fitzgerald went yard on September 13, 1983. The home run was one of only three hit with the franchise.
Ironically enough, Tug McGraw was also in this game but came in as a relief pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Fitzgerald didn’t take him yard. Instead, it was starter Tony Ghelfi who gave up a second inning two-run shot to Fitzgerald. The Mets went on to win this affair by a score of 5-1.
Over the next few years, Fitzgerald managed to hit 48 total home runs at the big league level. Most of them happened as a member of the Montreal Expos.
After the young catcher completed his 1984 season with the Mets, he was packaged with several other players in a trade for another backstop. Gary Carter is the man the Mets brought in to upgrade over Fitzgerald. Clearly, it was the right move to make.
Kazuo Matsui did something in 2004 no other Mets player has done before. On Opening Day, which took place on April 6th against the Atlanta Braves, he hit the first pitch he saw over the fence for a home run. What’s more, it was in the leadoff spot. His career and the season was off to an awesome start.
Matsui’s MLB debut was a memorable one. In the victory over Atlanta, he went 3 for 3 with 3 RBI. Braves pitchers wised up in this one, issuing a pair of walks to him on the day.
During his two and a half years with the Mets, Matsui only hit 11 total home runs. As a big leaguer, he retired with 32 bombs.
Amazingly, Matsui isn’t the first to hit a home run on the first pitch he ever saw. However, from reviewing the list of other men to achieve this feat, he looks like the only man who did so on Opening Day while batting leadoff.
Only a year after Matsui’s name was added to the list, the history books were rewritten again. On August 21, 2005, rookie Mike Jacobs stepped up to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning. With the Mets trailing 7-0 versus the Washington Nationals, Jacobs made it a game again.
Jacobs took the 0-1 pitch yard for the first big league home run of his career. He went on to deliver 10 more for the Mets over his next 99 at-bats.
The promising career in New York didn’t last long as he was packaged in a deal to acquire someone who hit plenty of home runs, Carlos Delgado. Jacobs joined the Florida Marlins where he continued to hit for good power. He did return to the Mets in 2010 where he managed to hit the 12th in orange and blue.
Overall, Jacobs finished his MLB career with an even 100 home runs. Failure to hit for a high batting average in the majors led to a career spent largely in Triple-A. In his first trip to the plate, however, Jacobs made Mets history.
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Hitting a home run in the first career at-bat is as unpredictable of an achievement as any. Thus far, only two are in the Hall of Fame, Earl Averill and pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm. If I had to guess who the next Mets player to do this is, I’m putting my money on a pitcher.