Giants' Jason Krizan reaches long-awaited MLB dream after 11 years in minors

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Krizan reaches MLB after more than 1,100 minor league games originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Jason Krizan was taken in the eighth round of the 2011 draft, his father gave him a piece of advice: "Play until somebody doesn't give you a uniform anymore."

Krizan remembered that through 1,132 games in the minor leagues in cities like Toledo, Ohio and Binghamton, New York. He remembered it through three stints in the Dominican Winter League, and through four different MLB organizations. He remembered it when he was brought to Cincinnati last year on the taxi squad, and when he spent a few hours in Milwaukee earlier this week, once again there just in case the Giants needed an extra bat.

On Friday, for the first time in his life, Krizan took part in a workout on a big league field. A couple hours later, he put on a big league uniform for the first time. The 32-year-old admitted there were moments when he had doubts about whether he would ever reach the big leagues, but he never considered giving up on the journey.

"I'm glad I'm still here and I'm very thankful for the grind," Krizan said before the game. "My road to the big leagues wasn't normal, but I'm thankful for my journey."

The first day in the big leagues wasn't normal, either. Krizan spent all week in a San Francisco hotel room as the Giants waited to see if Mike Yastrzemski's positive Covid-19 test turned into an outbreak. On Friday, the fourth and fifth Giants came down with the virus, and Krizan was one of three players called up from the Triple-A roster.

The Giants threw Krizan into the mix right away, starting him in left field. He was 0-for-3 with a walk in a game the Giants lost 14-4, but that didn't take much of the shine off of his big day.

"Obviously I wish we would have won, but being able to come out and play in a Major League Baseball game was an awesome experience and something I'll cherish the rest of my life," he said after the game.

No matter how the night went at the plate, it was always going to be a success. When they made the decision to finally add Krizan, the Giants flew his parents, sister, wife and two-year-old son, Carter, from Austin to San Francisco. As Krizan was doing his pregame work, his family walked onto the field and Carter bolted into his arms. He had not seen his father since the end of spring training.

Krizan said Carter is the "light of my world," adding that he almost cried after keeping it together for two days.

"My son doesn't know what's going on right now, but to be able to tell him that I played in the big leagues, it means everything," he said.

Kristin Krizan did break down when her husband delivered the news on Thursday night. The phone call Krizan had been waiting for finally came around 5 p.m. from Kapler, and it was a call Kapler knew he would make one day.

For two seasons, Kapler has brought Krizan up as a player who has caught his eye. He has good bat-to-ball skills and an excellent approach at the plate, the kind the Giants teach, and Kapler said repeatedly this spring that Krizan was someone who could help the Giants.

"He's been very, very close to making his Major League debut on several occasions and obviously he didn't, so I think this is additionally special for him, having gotten right to the edge and not gotten that call," Kapler said.

Kapler mentioned how hard Krizan has worked and the positive impression he made on Giants decision-makers, especially last year, when he hit .316 with 16 homers in Triple-A but never got a shot as the big league team was rolling to 107 wins.

"There's a lot of pride when a guy like Jason makes his Major League debut," he said.

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The first crack at the big leagues may not last long. The Giants have a Covid-19 outbreak in their clubhouse and it's hard to tell how many roster moves will be needed, but if they can get things under control, they should get back to their normal roster pretty quickly. They must cut down to 26 players before Tuesday's game at Dodger Stadium and left-handed-hitting outfielders Mike Yastrzemski (Covid) and LaMonte Wade Jr. (knee) are likely to be ready by then.

No matter how it turns out, though, Krizan will always be a big leaguer. It took him 11 years to get there, but teams kept giving him a uniform and Krizan kept chasing the dream.

"That's what I've been doing," he said, "And I'm very thankful that I have."

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