Walk-off! Baddoo adds to growing legend

April 6th, 2021

DETROIT -- The day before took over the Motor City, the Tigers' rookie was on deck to pinch-hit for on Saturday in what would’ve been his big league debut had the inning continued. Manager A.J. Hinch, anticipating a nervous wreck, asked Baddoo how his heartbeat was doing.

“He just looked at me like I was crazy, like, ‘It’s fine. I’m about to go play baseball,’” Hinch recalled.

It’s the same game he’s been playing since childhood, Baddoo’s mother keeps telling him. None of them could have imagined how he would be feeling three days, two home runs and a walk-off single later.

“I can’t really tell you,” Baddoo said when asked to describe it. “I’m just happy that all this hard work is paying off.”

After homering on his first pitch and hitting a grand slam the previous two days, Baddoo got his first game-winning hit and walk-off celebration on Tuesday. His 10th-inning single won the game, 4-3, and beat his old organization.

“That feeling right there is the best feeling: We won,” the former Twins prospect said. “I want that feeling every time. I’ll hit a single over a home run so we can win. Every day.”

Baddoo was already the first player in Tigers history with home runs in his first two Major League games, and the first Major Leaguer since Willson Contreras to homer on his first big league pitch. Tuesday’s heroics made him the first Tiger with a walk-off hit within his first three Major League games since Gabe Alvarez singled off Cubs reliever Dave Stevens on June 24, 1998. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Baddoo is the first MLB player since at least 1900 with two homers, including a grand slam, and a walk-off hit in his first three games.

“Heck of a way to start a career, huh,” teammate said.

Two of those feats are against Baddoo's old club.

“He’s impressive,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s been fun to watch. More fun if we weren’t playing him, but he’s done a nice job.”

Minnesota challenged its former Class A prospect to beat it, walking a batter to bring Baddoo to the plate with two outs in the 10th. He didn’t need to crush another fastball into the bullpen to do it, just turn on an offspeed pitch and put it into the open space behind first base.

Sounds simple, but as many promising young hitters with far more experience before him have found, incredibly tough. But just like during the previous two days, the 22-year-old was calm and ready.

“I was just thinking about having a two-strike approach,” Baddoo said. “Robbie talked to me about how this guy likes to attack hitters. He told me, ‘Hey, just relax and see the ball up. Just know he’s probably going to throw some soft stuff, and be prepared for it.’”

The matchup seemed inevitable once threw out Jorge Polanco at home and held the Twins scoreless in the top of the 10th. Under extra-inning rules, Detroit opened the bottom of the inning with on second. Candelario moved Castro to third before Hansel Robles fanned for the second out.

The Twins walked Grossman, who had an RBI double and RBI single earlier, to bring up their former second-round Draft pick. Minnesota could’ve walked Baddoo to load the bases for the pitcher’s spot; the Tigers forfeited their designated hitter when they pinch-hit for catcher earlier. , Detroit's last position player, was on deck to pinch-hit, but Minnesota went at Baddoo, who entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth.

None of Baddoo’s four pitches were fastballs, the pitches he hit out to the opposite field the previous two games. Baddoo took two changeups out of the zone and a slider for strike one. Robles went back to the slider, but Baddoo turned on it and laced a single into right.

Unlike with his home runs, Baddoo didn’t have to round the bases to get to the celebration. He had barely rounded first base when his teammates mobbed him.

“I’m drenched right now,” he said during his Zoom interview. “I had water -- cold water -- as soon as we got the W. And then I had a whole bunch of things [poured on me] that I couldn’t tell you. They just told me to keep my eyes closed and [I would] be fine. So I did that, and I’m still recovering.”