How a pregame convo sparked PCA's 1st homer of 2024

Cubs' top prospect powers up, electrifies on the basepaths at Triple-A

April 5th, 2024

Heading into Thursday night, had yet to hit a home run in 2024, a streak spanning Spring Training, Minor League games on the back fields and Triple-A play. Despite the lack of power display, the 22-year-old felt no pressure over his home run drought.

However, a chat with veteran catcher Curt Casali sparked a breakthrough for Crow-Armstrong.

“Casali turned to me and said, ‘Pete, six games is too long without a homer, man.'" Crow-Armstrong said. "I've got a feeling you're going to get one tonight.'"

It didn’t take long to discover that Casali's prediction was about to become reality. The Cubs' top prospect only needed to see two pitches before unleashing a mighty swing in his first at-bat of the game. The result? His first home run of the season, which had an exit velocity of 106 mph and banged off a corn banner in right-center field.

It set the tone for Crow-Armstrong’s night en route to the Iowa Cubs' 5-1 win over the Toledo Mud Hens at Principal Park. The young outfielder finished 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, all while wearing a powder blue Iowa Oaks throwback jersey.

“It's something that I've wanted to do for a couple of months now,” Crow-Armstrong said about hitting his first home run. “It came at a good spot. I was glad to do it, especially leading off. Getting the first one out of the way is always fun. It definitely frees you up a little bit.”

After striking out and grounding out in his next two at-bats, Crow-Armstrong's aggressiveness popped up again. In the seventh inning, he ripped a second-pitch fastball from Tigers No. 9 prospect Wilmer Flores for a 106.5 mph single; he promptly showed off his wheels by stealing second base, setting him up for a wild run.

As he took a lead from second, Mud Hens catcher Dillon Dingler whiffed on a pitch that forced Crow-Armstrong to turn on the jets. He sprinted around third, before hesitating. After seeing he had a shot at scoring, Crow-Armstrong booked it for home plate and evaded a tag by Flores to score.

“I like to always think about two bags when I'm on the bases,” Crow-Armstrong said. “I was planning on being aggressive on that ball from the jump. I misjudged how far back the ball was. I definitely got caught in the middle there, but it's kind of do-or-die at that point. Luckily, it was a cluster on the plate and I snuck in there.

“It's funny. It's easy to try and make things happen on the bases. It's also easy to mess them up, but you also see how the game of baseball works.”

Crow-Armstrong capped off his night by hitting an RBI double in the eighth to give the Cubs some extra insurance. His strong performance boosts his early-season slash line to .308/.357/.654.

For the past four years of his professional career, Crow-Armstrong was chasing the Majors. He finally accomplished that feat when the Cubs called him up on Sept. 11 last season. He entered spring camp this year in a battle for a roster spot but Cubs manager Craig Counsell said Triple-A was “the best place” for him to start the season. And MLB’s No. 16 overall prospect is ready to seize the opportunity.

“Coming back to Triple-A feels familiar,” Crow-Armstrong said. “And it's nice that it feels like that because that just means that I'm back with a lot of the same faces and new faces as well. We have one hell of a team here.”