Cards prospect hits HR in eventful 1st career AB

April 20th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- had finished his circle around the bases and passed through the mass of giddy teammates who were ready for his return to the dugout when he was reminded that there was one more thing left to do.

The crowd, he was told, was waiting for him, too.

Thomas needed only one game at Busch Stadium to secure his first big league curtain call, the moment coming after he became the 10th player in franchise history to hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat.

“That was the coolest part, I think, looking up and seeing everybody standing and cheering,” Thomas said of the ovation. “It was pretty surreal. That’s the stuff you dream about as a kid.”

The moment came in the sixth inning of Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Mets when Thomas, the Cardinals' No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was sent to the plate as a pinch-hitter. It wasn’t his Major League debut -- that came as a defensive replacement two days earlier -- but it was Thomas’ first opportunity to swing the bat.

On an 0-1 slider from reliever Seth Lugo, Thomas drove a pitch to deep right. He knew he had notched his first hit and RBI, but it wasn’t until a 29-second crew chief review confirmed that the ball had cleared the right-field wall that Thomas was awarded the final 90 feet of his trip around the bases.

Thomas, who joined the Cardinals on Wednesday to help offer coverage while outfielders Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill heal from injury, had not homered in 11 Triple-A games to open the season.

“Pretty special moment for him,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Not many people get to accomplish that. Big moment for him, big moment for us. Snapped us right back into that game.”

Thomas became the first MLB player to homer in his first Major League at-bat since teammate Paul DeJong did so in May 2017. In fact, three Cardinals who appeared in Friday’s game are among the 10 players in franchise history to achieve the feat. Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright did so back in 2006. Thomas was only the fourth Cardinals player to do so as a pinch-hitter.

“He’s a great player,” Wainwright said of Thomas. “I saw him a lot in my rehab starts last year, and he was one of the four guys I came back and reported, 'These guys are big league players.' I think we’re going to see a lot of him. He’s going to be a great player.”