ST. LOUIS -- Luke Voit headed home on Sunday with more than just a baseball. The impact of his Major League debut was also imprinted on his back.
Voit became the fifth player in Cardinals history to be plunked by a pitch in his Major League debut and the first since at least 1918 to have it happen in his first plate appearance. An ovation that started when Voit stepped in as a pinch-hitter in the Cardinals' eventual 8-4 win continued as he jogged to first.
Voit grinned the whole way. Cameras captured his parents cheering from the stands.
"My brother and I grew up playing football, beating each other up. You just wipe it off," Voit said. "I didn't even feel it honestly. I had so much adrenaline running through me. I felt like I was in my backyard again, you know. It was awesome."
He used that word throughout the day on Sunday after stepping into Busch Stadium for the first time since the 2014 postseason -- when he sat in the stands as a fan. Voit had last walked on the field in 2013, when he attended a scouting showcase as a Missouri State University catcher. The Cardinals ended up drafting him in the 22nd round.
Waiting for the first baseman when he arrived was a handwritten note from David Freese, who, like Voit, is a graduate of nearby Lafayette High School. In the stands were dozens of friends and family members who scrambled to buy tickets to see the hometown kid make his debut about 30 miles from where he grew up serving as a batboy for Ryan Howard and adopting the same swing as baseball hero, Mark McGwire.
"It's what I've been waiting for since I was a little kid, man," said Voit, who wore No. 40. "Growing up, you know, being a Cardinals fan, coming to Busch every year, I don't know, I've been shaking since last night. It's a great feeling."
He worked the count full in his seventh-inning plate appearance, which was intermittingly interrupted by fans chanting his first name.
"I don't think I've ever seen an initial ovation for a first at-bat like that," Cardinlas manager Mike Matheny said afterward. "I asked him if he left 10,000 tickets tonight. But a lot of people have been watching his career from Lafayette to Missouri State through our system. I think people just love his story, too: That guy who didn't have the golden road paved for him."
Before he could earn this trip back home, Voit had to take to a position change, figure out his swing and carve out space on rosters even though he wasn't considered a prospect. He tapped into more power when he began trying to hit more balls in the air last year.
Voit drew attention after winning the Texas League Home Run Derby last summer and had no trouble adjusting to Triple-A pitching this year. In 70 games with Memphis, Voit hit .322/.406/.561 with a .967 OPS, 23 doubles, 12 homers and 45 RBIs.
Now, he serves as a backup to first baseman Matt Carpenter and a bat off the big league bench.
"I'm confident in my abilities, and I'm ready to give it a go," Voit said. "I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, and I'm going to go out there with a killer attitude and, you know, hit bombs and doubles."