Lost & found! Vieaux gifted 1st K ball by young Bucs fan

Reliever grateful for gesture: 'If he needs anything, get in touch with me. I’ll hook him up.'

June 18th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- There are few mementos that a pitcher cherishes more than the baseball with which he struck out his first batter. Pirates reliever Cam Vieaux had to go through a couple extra steps to get his.

When Vieaux got Giants third baseman Evan Longoria swinging to end the fifth inning for his first career strikeout in his first Major League game, catcher Tyler Heineman, as backstops instinctively do, threw the ball to third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes. And Hayes, as corner infielders instinctively do after an inning-ending strikeout, threw the ball into the PNC Park crowd, right into the glove of 12-year-old Aundre Hill. The Pirates had a ball to retrieve.

For Hill, Vieaux’s first strikeout was the first ball he’s ever gotten at a baseball game. He exuded pure joy after making the catch, holding the ball up for all to see and receiving a procession of high-fives and daps.

“The third baseman has the ball, he throws it up,” Hill told MLB.com. “It’s a little away from me, but I go over, I reach over the seat and get it. I’m like, ‘Wow. This is the first ball I’ve ever got at a game. This is super special.’”

Only moments later, Hill realized the ball was special for a certain 28-year-old rookie, too.

Hill was made aware of the significance that the ball possessed for Vieaux. He immediately made his way towards the field and met with Heineman, who orchestrated a one-for-one trade for another baseball. Hill knew that others in his position had negotiated for additional gear, but he cared more about doing what he felt was right.

“I just wanted to trade it in, fair and square,” Hill said. “I’ve seen people trading stuff for bats, but I wasn’t really thinking about that. I was like, ‘I’m going to give him his piece of history, and I’m going to be fine with what I have.’”

Vieaux recalled hearing yelling as he made his way to the dugout after striking out Longoria, but he didn’t initially know the source of the commotion.

“I heard [first baseman Michael] Chavis yelling, ‘Key, Key, Key,’” Vieaux said. “I thought we were running off the field before we got three outs or something. I was like, ‘Oh, no. What happened?’”

Added Vieaux: “If he needs anything, get in touch with me. I’ll hook him up.”

Given the catch, and subsequent exchange, Hill ranks the game among the best he’s ever attended. The only other contest that comes close came on his ninth birthday in Arizona, when a fan ran onto the field.

“One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” Hill said.

Hill won’t be the only person in attendance who ranks this game among their personal favorites. Following seven seasons in the Minors, Vieaux finally got his chance to grace a Major League mound. He wouldn’t waste the opportunity. Across 1 2/3 innings, Vieaux struck out three batters, all swinging. The only blip on his resume being a harmless single.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Vieaux said. “Seven years in the Minors now. Just grinding through it. It really hasn’t even set in yet. It’s been a crazy 24 hours to say the least.”

Making the night even sweeter was that Vieaux had family and friends in attendance to witness his first time on a Major League mound. When Vieaux recorded his first strikeout, no member of the cohort was more amped up than his father, who leaped out of his seat and clearly yelled out, "Let’s go!"

Vieaux joked with his dad after the game to act like he’d been there before.

“I’m so glad he did that,” Vieaux said. “It’s awesome. He rarely ever shows emotion. I’ve never seen him act like that.”

For Vieaux, for his family, for Hill, Friday was a night they’ll be reminiscing about for years to come.