PITTSBURGH -- The news became real to Austin Meadows on Thursday night, when he received a text message from Kimera Bartee. The Pirates' first-base coach told Meadows that the time had come, that he was coming to Pittsburgh to help a first-place team continue to win games.It hit him again
PITTSBURGH -- The news became real to Austin Meadows on Thursday night, when he received a text message from Kimera Bartee. The Pirates' first-base coach told Meadows that the time had come, that he was coming to Pittsburgh to help a first-place team continue to win games.
It hit him again on Friday. Meadows' mother, Staci, sent him a picture from outside PNC Park. The Pirates had hung a banner of Meadows, wearing his white No. 17 Pirates jersey, between those of Felipe Vazquez and Josh Harrison. The reality of it all set in on Friday afternoon, when he found his locker between Corey Dickerson and Jordy Mercer in the Pirates' clubhouse.
When he stepped into the batter's box in the second inning Friday night, he said, he felt no nerves. For nearly five years, through all the accolades and injuries dealt his way since the day the Pirates made him a first-round Draft pick, that was the moment Meadows played out in his head.
"I've been dreaming of this day," Meadows said. "It was just anticipation out there. Just being ready to play. Just going out there and being myself."
The Pirates' top outfield prospect was as advertised in his Major League debut. Batting seventh and starting in center field, Meadows went 2-for-4 with a stolen base and launched two flyouts to deep center field in the Pirates' 3-2 loss to the Padres.
"I thought he had a very good debut," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Meadows quickly got a couple firsts out of the way. With two outs in the fourth inning, he smacked his first big league hit, a single, to right-center field. The Pirates retrieved the ball, which will go to Meadows' parents. Meadows soaked in the moment at first base with Bartee, then promptly stole second base.
"I don't even know if it's hit me yet, honestly," Meadows said. "It's something I'll never forget, for sure."
Starling Marte's right oblique strain created an opportunity for the 23-year-old Meadows. The Pirates put Marte on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday, and called up Meadows to take his spot. The Pirates don't have a return date in mind for Marte, Hurdle said, but they don't anticipate their star center fielder will be down for long.
Meadows intends to make the most of his first taste of the big leagues, no matter how long it lasts.
"I'm excited to be a part of this great atmosphere they have going," he said.
Meadows received word of his promotion on Thursday. Triple-A Indianapolis hitting coach Ryan Long approached him in the visitor's clubhouse in Norfolk, Va. Manager Brian Esposito wanted to speak with Meadows about a double he hit that could have been a triple. Meadows couldn't answer his manager's question about not taking third base.
"Well, you can't do that in the big leagues," Esposito told Meadows, "because that's where you're going."
Meadows' first call was to his mother. Staci was at PNC Park on Friday for his long-awaited debut alongside Meadows' father, Kenny; his brother, Parker; his fiancée, Alexis; plus a handful of family members from around Atlanta and others from nearby McKeesport.
Meadows put together a seven-game hitting streak just before his promotion. That success was the result of an aggressive approach in the strike zone, he said, and good health. The latter was all that held back Meadows as he moved through Pittsburgh's system.
The past two seasons, Meadows was sidelined by an orbital fracture as well as hamstring and oblique injuries. Last fall, he began working with Dr. Joel Seedman, a trainer in Atlanta, to get his body in the best possible shape he could.
"The man has dealt with some adversity. He's dealt with some weird injuries," Hurdle said. "I think it's all helped him grow and learn and understand how he needs to take care of himself, because every player can be different."
Meadows' path here was also different -- perhaps not what he expected -- but he never doubted this day that he dreamed of would come eventually.
"I've always had that confidence. I've always known that I'm destined to be here," Meadows said. "Through the injuries, it obviously hasn't been the fast track. But there's always a reason for everything. I think it's made me a stronger person and who I am today."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.