With dad in crowd, Pagés slugs 1st MLB homer on Father's Day weekend

June 14th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Within minutes of the Cardinals putting the finishing touches on a 3-0 defeat of the rival Cubs and getting back to .500 for the first time in two weeks, rookie catcher began scanning the Wrigley Field crowd for his father, Edgar, the man who was always his hitting coach during his amateur and collegiate days and his biggest supporter when he seemed to languish in the Minor Leagues for three years.

Edgar, a South Florida resident, could have waited until Monday to see his son play against the Marlins in Miami, but he wasn’t about to miss Pedro’s first games at historic Wrigley Field on Father’s Day weekend. As fate would have it, he made the right call to fly in on Friday morning, and he got to see his son’s first MLB home run … in the eighth inning of a scoreless game ... in the latest chapter of the decades-long epic between the Cardinals and Cubs.

“I went out there to say hi to him, and the first thing he does is give me a hug and just starts crying,” said Pagés, whose solo home run cut through the swirling winds and landed in the basket over the left-field wall. “I’m like, ‘Dad, please don’t cry right now!’ But then I started tearing up a little. It’s just a big moment for us because we’ve been through so much as a family. It’s amazing.”

If Pagés' feel-good story from Friday sounds like something straight from a Hollywood movie set, it’s just a continuation of a first MLB season that reads like a script from a syrupy-sweet Disney movie.

On March 9 in Spring Training, he hit a home run against the Mets and then proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Kori Varney, later that night on the beach. Later, the 25-year-old catcher got the call of a lifetime on April 4 when he was promoted from Triple-A to the Cardinals -- only he had to take a four-hour Uber ride from Indianapolis to St. Louis because there were no flights, and the Cardinals were in a pinch, with starting catcher Willson Contreras out with a hand injury.

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Pagés had to wait six weeks for his first MLB hit -- with a Minor League deployment in between -- but that first knock was a memorable one. His double down the third-base line drove in three runs in a win over the Angels.

Then came Friday and a moment that the Pagés family won’t soon forget. Inserted into the starting lineup largely because of his elite pitch-framing skills and his blossoming chemistry with pitcher Kyle Gibson, Pagés biggest difference proved to come from his bat. He hit a hanging sweeper from Cubs reliever Hayden Wesneski, who leaped into the air as soon as the ball left the bat. The Statcast-projected 363-foot smash, which left the bat at 102.5 mph, left Pagés joyfully floating around the bases. Later, he got the ball from the homer.

As soon as he touched home, Pagés tried looking through the Wrigley crowd to find his contingent that included his dad, stepmom, sister, fiancée and future in-laws. But considering the swirl of emotions he was feeling at the time, he said couldn’t pick out any one person in the mob of fans.

“I kind of knew the section [where his family was sitting] and I kind of remember stepping on home, but after that I just threw the ‘I love you’ sign up in the air and it was kind of a black-out moment,” Pagés said.

As much joy as Pagés got from his homer, it was some of the defensive moments from Friday that provided him even more satisfaction. According to pitch-tracking data, Pagés used his pitch-framing skills to steal a strike three call on Michael Busch in the fifth inning and a borderline third-strike call on Seiya Suzuki in the seventh inning. Those calls certainly aided Gibson, who limited the Cubs to just two hits and a walk over seven scoreless innings of work.

“Pedro was really good,” Gibson said. “He’s got a really good feel for the game.”

Sitting at his locker after the game, Pagés admitted to being stunned at all that happened. Never, he said, will he forget his first homer and the emotions of the day.

“I couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of since being a little kid -- hitting my first homer in a big moment. Doing it in front of my dad and family here, there are a lot of emotions still going through me. I’m just sitting here smiling and not even knowing what to do with myself.”