Major League Debuts By Royals Through the Years

Eric Hosmer starts at first base tomorrow against Oakland.

I’m excited, you’re excited.  Royals fans all over are excited.

Attendance should be pretty strong tomorrow night to see his major league debut.  Think of how many eight-year-olds can say in twenty years that they were there for Eric Hosmer’s major league debut.  If this group of prospects leads us to the promised land, that’s going to be a special memory.

I went digging to find some other prominent Royals (and some who are just scary) to find out how their major league debuts went.  I stuck with hitters, as I figure there are opportunities later this year to examine pitchers’ debuts.  Also I only looked at a few players who made debuts as a Royal, so that knocked out Amos Otis and Cookie Rojas among others.

Hopefully, Hosmer’s debut goes as well as Mark Quinn‘s where he went 3-4 against the Angels, hitting two homers and driving in four.  Hopefully, Hosmer’s career fares better.

  • Frank WhiteJune 12, 1973: White entered the game as a shortstop in the 6th inning and went 0-1 against the Orioles.  I’ve been a Royals fan my entire life, and never knew that White made his major league debut before…
  • George BrettAugust 2, 1973: Brett played third and batted eighth, going 1-4.  He lined out in his first at bat but hit a single to left off Stan Bahnsen in his second at bat for his first major league hit.  Tony Muser, future Royals manager, was playing first for the White Sox that day.
  • Willie WilsonSeptember 4, 1976: Wilson entered the game as a pinch runner for Amos Otis against the Rangers.
  • Clint HurdleSeptember 18, 1977: Hurdle was proclaimed “This Year’s Phenom” by Sports Illustrated before the 1978 season.  Maybe that was partly due to his 1-3 efforts in his major league debut.  That one hit was a homer.
  • Kevin SeitzerSeptember 3, 1986: The guru to Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur had two singles in five at bats in his debut against the White Sox.  He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting the next season.
  • Bob HamelinSeptember 12, 1993: Hamelin pinch hit for Jose Lind (probably a good call) against the Yankees.  He hit 24 homers the next season in a strike-shortened 1994 and won the Rookie of the Year award.
  • Joe VitielloApril 29, 1995: Anyone else remember this guy?  I recall reading in Baseball Weekly about how he was the next big thing.  He went 0-1 pinch hitting for Hamelin against the Yankees.  He disappeared a few years later.
  • Joe RandaApril 30, 1995: This was a big year for the Royals, as they saw quite a few debuts.  Randa started at second a day after Vitiello made his debut.  Randa went 0-3 and started at second base.
  • Johnny DamonAugust 12, 1995: This is one of the more memorable games in my Royals-watching career.  That day, the Royals also brought up Brent Cookson and he made his debut the same day.  I had to mow the lawn that night or get grounded, so I had a radio and headphones on while the Royals batted, and went inside when Kevin Appier was pitching and Johnny Damon was coming up.  Damon went 3-5 with a run, RBI and tripled off Tim Belcher.  He then gave the most stammering interview I’ve ever heard after the game.
  • Mike SweeneySeptember 4, 1995: Maybe 1995 can be a warning tale for how a big group of prospects won’t necessarily make a team a contender.  Maybe that’s not fair.  Sweeney at the time wasn’t a huge prospect the likes of what the Royals have now, and Vitiello and Randa weren’t A grade guys either.  Sweeney was a defensive replacement for Henry Mercedes behind the plate in his debut in the top of the eighth against Toronto.  He was promptly pinch hit for by Bob Hamelin in the ninth.  His first at bat came two weeks later.
  • Carlos Beltran September 14, 1998: Beltran came in as a substitute for Larry Sutton against Oakland.  In a neat twist of baseball history, his manager was Tony Muser, who bumped elbows with Brett on his debut.  Beltran singled to third in his lone at bat.
  • Mark Quinn – September 14, 1999: See above.  I almost want to reference the time he earned a walk and they shot off fireworks.  I guess I just did.
  • Ken Harvey September 18, 2001: Harvey went 0-4 with three strikeouts as DH against Cleveland.  There were no tarp-related incidents, however.  Jason Grimsley, also, was absent.
  • Angel BerroaSeptember 18, 2001: Yep, Berroa and Harvey debuted the same night.  The 2003 Rookie of the Year was a defensive sub for Neifi Perez.  Really.  That’s like the pit of despair for shortstops.  He was 0-1 that night.
  • David DeJesus September 2, 2003: DeJesus replaced Beltran in center field in the bottom of the eighth against Texas but didn’t get an at bat until two days later.  He was out as a pinch hitter for Tom Prince.
  • Alex Gordon – April 2, 2007: You know this story.  Gordon, second overall pick in 2005, Minor League Player of the Year in 2006, makes the jump from Double A to the majors and comes up with the bases loaded in his major league debut against future Hall of Famer Curt Schilling.  He struck out.  Many think that if he’d gotten a hit, his first few years in the league would have turned out differently.  I’m somewhat convinced myself of that theory.
  • Billy Butler May 1, 2007: Butler was a high school hitter drafted by the Royals in 2004.  Three years later, at the age of 21, he made his debut in May.  Sound familiar?  Here’s one difference from Hosmer’s upcoming debut – Butler started in left field.  He also went 2-4 against the Angels.
  • Mike Aviles May 29, 2008: Aviles forced the Royals hand to call him up in 2008.  He wasn’t a huge prospect and still can’t seem to get a hold of an everyday role, but he went 0-3 in his debut as shortstop against the Twins.  He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.
  • Kila Ka’aihueSeptember 4, 2008: Ah, it all comes full circle.  After a huge year where he showed huge power and great patience in Northwest Arkansas, Kila got the call as rosters expanded in September.  He made his first appearance as a pinch runner (what?) for Jose Guillen (oh, okay) against the A’s.  He went 1-4 the next night against the Indians.

Tomorrow, we get to add Hosmer to this list.  I don’t think there’s much to derive from a player’s debut, but getting off on the right foot is always good, especially when there’s a (likely) big crowd on hand for the event.

Anyone who’s going out to the K tomorrow to take it in is welcome to share their stories – we can pass them down on parchment to future generations.

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Topics: AL Central, Alex Gordon, Angel Berroa, Baseball, Billy Butler, David DeJesus, Eric Hosmer, Frank White, George Brett, Kansas City Royals, KC, Kila Kaaihue, Mark Quinn, Mike Aviles, MLB, Royals, Willie Wilson

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