There has been a lot about the 2014 Texas Rangers’ season that has been tough to put into words, and not necessarily in a good way.
But an isolated moment, buried in the midst of an 8-3 loss, falls on the other end of the spectrum for rookie outfielder Jake Smolinski, whose first major league hit was an RBI double to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday.
“It’s kind of indescribable unless you experience it,” Smolinski said.
Maybe at a loss for words on how to elucidate the emotions of the once-in-a-lifetime experience, Smolinski won’t be without a fond memory.
“One of the guys told me it’s something I’ll always have and always remember,” Smolinski said. “It’s a great feeling and a great experience.”
If Smolinski’s manager, who proudly emerged from the dugout to collect the ball that found its way down the left field line for two bases and a run, is any example, it’s true that the memory sticks.
“It makes you think about your time when you first got to the big leagues,” Ron Washington said, before recalling his first major league hit against Dave Freisleben in the first inning of a September 12 game against the Padres in 1977.
Oddly enough, Washington’s first hit at Triple A also came against Freisleben.
Smolinski isn’t quite sure what exactly the future holds for the ball used for his first big league base knock. He said he plans to get it written on with the date and the details of the event, and it will go somewhere in his house back home.
In the ninth inning Tuesday, Smolinski would record his second hit. He has made a strong first impression on his first big league manager. That first impression, however, didn’t come without some jesting from the veteran skipper.
“I really joked with him and said if he can’t come up here and act like he was acting while he was at Triple A, I was going to send him back to Round Rock,” Washington said with a smile Wednesday.
Smolinski said the message to be taken from Washington’s banter was simple: don’t put any extra pressure on yourself.
“He laughed. He seemed to be loose, haircut and all,” Wash said of Smolinski, who wears a quasi-mohawk under his sharp new cap with the bold “T” insignia of the major league club.
The 25-year-old rookie struck out in his first MLB at-bat and was 0-for-4 before his two late hits Tuesday night.
“It’s no different, if they throw the ball over the plate, hit it,” Washington said. “Everybody’s going to strike out, everybody’s going to chase pitches. I just don’t want him to get in his own head.”
Smolinski is penciled in as the starting right fielder for Wednesday night’s game, after starting in left field Tuesday. Washington said the young outfielder will see time at both corner outfield spots, as well as designated hitter.
“He’s replacing Michael Choice, so I’m going to use him like I used Michael Choice,” Wash said. “He’s a very good outfielder, he can run a little bit.”
Choice appeared in 24 of the Rangers’ last 31 games before he was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock, starting 22 of them.
Smolinski, who started this season at Double-A Frisco and played a brief stint with Round Rock, said he’s not changing his approach at this level. Rather, he’s enjoying the experience one day at a time.
And his success could be a bright spot in dark times for the 2014 Rangers who are fighting to stay out of the cellar of the AL West.