From 'caveman' swing to historic debut for Outman

August 1st, 2022

DENVER -- When James Outman was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday, the 25-year-old outfielder and the Dodgers' No. 17 prospect was asked a multitude of standard questions for a ballplayer on the precipice of making his Major League debut. He was asked what time he got the call, who he told right away, how the trip was to join the club, etc.

But he was also asked about his swing.

“I came into pro ball kind of swinging like a caveman,” Outman said. “Just, like, really stiff and not much there. … It’s been a total rebuild.”

In the Dodgers' 7-3 victory over the Rockies on Sunday afternoon at Coors Field, Outman’s swing didn’t resemble the swing a caveman might take. It looked like one an out-man would take -- as in, a man who hits baseballs out of the ballpark. It wasn’t stiff and without substance. It was a smooth, quick stroke that produced an immediate, prodigious result.

In his first Major League plate appearance, Outman launched a home run off of Rockies starter Germán Márquez that traveled a Statcast-projected 405 feet to right-center field and into Colorado’s bullpen to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the third inning. With the two-run shot, Outman became the eighth player in franchise history to homer in his first big league plate appearance, and the first since Keibert Ruiz on Aug. 16, 2020.

The moment was captured on video by Outman’s fiancée, who was in attendance along with his parents and five other friends and family members from Northern California, where Outman grew up.

Outman said his mind went blank when he was rounding the bases, and when he was asked what was said to him when he reached the dugout, he said he didn’t remember anything that happened over the next 30 minutes.

“I was just running high on adrenaline,” Outman said. “ … I think the strikeout in my second at-bat actually kind of locked me in a little bit because I was just running off adrenaline in my first at-bat.”

Following that strikeout in the fourth inning, Outman lined a single to right field that had an exit velocity of 109.5 mph in the seventh. In the eighth, he belted an RBI double to right-center field.

When Outman got back to the visitors’ clubhouse following the victory, with which the Dodgers took three of four from the Rockies, he was informed of his place in the 139-year history of the storied franchise.

Just how historic was Outman’s debut? He:

• Became the first player in franchise history to have three hits, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored in his MLB debut, and only the second to have three hits and three RBIs in his big league debut (also Packy Rogers on July 12, 1938).

• Became the third Dodgers player to have a homer and three hits in his MLB debut, joining Jose Offerman (1990) and Ernie Koy ('38).

• Became the first Dodger in 30 years to have three or more hits in his MLB debut -- the last had been Hall of Famer Mike Piazza on Sept. 1, 1992.

• Is the first player in the Majors to debut with three hits, a home run and three RBIs since the Rangers' Joey Gallo on June 2, 2015.

“I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined this,” manager Dave Roberts said. “This is what you dream about.”

Outman said he would be taking the home run ball, which reliever Alex Vesia retrieved for him, along on the Dodgers’ flight to San Francisco for their series against the Giants. Vesia, as it turns out, predicted the home run as part of a game the relievers were playing in the bullpen.

“I’m going to stare at it for a long time,” Outman said. “And then I’m going to put it up in my childhood room with all my Little League home runs and stuff like that. … I’m 30 minutes away from San Francisco, [in Redwood City]. So I might go drop it off.”

The Dodgers went 21-5 in July despite having several key hitters either injured or slumping, along with several key relievers on the injured list. As Tuesday’s 3 p.m. PT Trade Deadline nears, the rumors surrounding the club, including its potential pursuit of superstar outfielder Juan Soto, continue to swirl.

But all of that, as important as it is in the big picture of 2022, faded into the background Sunday. As Roberts said after the game, “This is James Outman’s day.”

As for Outman’s rebuilt swing, the first impressions are glowing.

“No more caveman for me,” he said.