May 09, 2011
While the eyes of the baseball world were focused on Eric Hosmer's(notes) major league debut with the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, another young man with a dream to play in the big leagues quietly made his debut with the Tampa Bay Rays.
His name is Brandon Guyer(notes) (above left), a 25-year-old outfielder who was named the Chicago Cubs minor league Player of the Year in 2010. Despite that honor, Guyer arrived with far less fanfare than Hosmer, but just as much determination to leave his mark. And that's exactly what he did in very abbreviated call-up that spanned only three days, but provided more than one fascinating story.
The call-up: Brandon Guyer was a part of one the offseason's biggest trades. Along with Sam Fuld(notes), and other prospects Chris Archer(notes), Robinson Chirinos and Hak-Ju Lee, Guyer was shipped from the Cubs to Tampa Bay in exchange for Matt Garza(notes), Fernando Perez(notes) and minor leaguer Zach Rosscup.
With the Rays' other offseason acquistions of Manny Ramirez(notes), Johnny Damon(notes) and Fuld, and with top prospect Desmond Jennings(notes) waiting in the wings, a trade to Tampa probably didn't feel like the fast track to the big leagues for Guyer. But sure enough, when the Rays needed to plug a hole on their roster over the weekend, it was Guyer receiving the call he'd been waiting for.
He learned the news from Triple-A Durham manager Charlie Montoyo after his final at-bat — a failed attempt for a bunt base hit — in Thursday night's game. Less than 24 hours later, he was to report to Camden Yards, a 90-mile drive from Herndon, Va., where he was a standout athlete in baseball and football, to make his big league debut against the Baltimore Orioles.
His first at-bat there would be a polar opposite of his last in Durham.
The home run: When Guyer arrived to the ballpark on Friday, he found his name on Joe Maddon's lineup card batting sixth and playing left field. By the time his first at-bat came around in the second inning, the Rays already held a 1-0 lead, and B.J. Upton(notes) was on second base.
Guyer showed terrific patience, working himself into a 3-1 count against Baltimore's Zach Britton(notes). When Britton delivered the next pitch, Guyer golfed it into the left-field seats, becoming the 109th player to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat.
A fascinating sidenote: When Guyer's Single-A Peoria Chiefs (Cubs affiliate) played a regular-season game at Wrigley Field in 2008, Guyer hit the first pitch he saw for a home run into the left-field bleachers. Needless to say he doesn't allow the extra deck or two to serve as an intimidating factor.
Almost perfect: Everything about Guyer's debut was storybook. Well, except for one little detail. His wife, Lindsay Murphy, a sports anchor at FOX 5 in Washington, D.C., who delivered her final sports report at 6:20 p.m., didn't make it into the stadium in time to witness the event. She actually heard it on the radio, while finding a place to park in the Camden Yards parking lot.
"My reaction was to scream and roll my window down and yell at people walking in the stadium," Murphy said. "I'm kind of surprised. For how young he is and everything, he's poised well beyond his years."
The abrupt ending: Guyer's short stint ended on Sunday when he was optioned back to Durham to make room for right-handed pitcher Rob Delaney(notes). He only received those three at-bats in Friday's game, but the message he received from Joe Maddon says all you need to know about the impression Guyer made then, and as far back as spring training.
"He's going to be back here," Maddon said. "I liked him the moment I met him in spring training. He looks you in the eye." [...]
"First of all, I said, 'Great job and thank you for what you did for us here, but we're a little bit short in the bullpen and we have to make a move today. I want you to know you made a great impression on all of us, like you did in spring training," Maddon said.
The game of baseball itself is amazing, but it's the stories that surround the game, like Brandon Guyer's first weekend in the big leagues, that make it so incredibly special and fun to follow. Here's hoping we get to see a continuation of Brandon's story sooner rather than later.