A big hit song: Amaya can't help but sing after 1st MLB knock

May 6th, 2023

CHICAGO --  could not help himself. As he stood on the field after Saturday's win, surveying the Wrigley Field stands and listening to the fans joining together in song, the rookie catcher joined in as the television camera rolled.

"Go Cubs, go," Amaya sang. "Hey Chicago, waddaya say? The Cubs are gonna win today."

Indeed, the Cubs had just pulled off a 4-2 comeback win for the Friendly Confines faithful, and it was one that Amaya and his family will not soon forget. With his parents, Max and Anny, in the stands -- his father waving Panama's flag -- the catcher collected his first Major League hit.

In an error-filled eighth inning by the Marlins that swung the momentum Chicago's way, manager David Ross called upon Amaya to pinch-hit against tough lefty A.J. Puk. The rookie delivered a single that bounced up the middle, through the infield grass, helped by a dose of good luck.

"Baseball gods, man," Amaya said with a smile.


The 24-year-old catcher had crushed the handful of balls he put in play since being called up from Double-A Tennessee on Tuesday. Amaya sent five pitches into play -- each clocking in at over 100 mph off the bat. All five resulted in outs.

With one out in the eighth and  standing on second -- following his two-run, go-ahead single -- Amaya worked the count full and connected on a 95 mph fastball from Puk. The ball bounced high over the pitcher, returned to Earth and then skipped just under the edge of second baseman Xavier Edward's glove.

The hit checked in at 67.4 mph, per Statcast.

"That exit velo stuff is overrated, isn't it?" Ross quipped.

"He's been barreling balls left and right," Madrigal said. "I had a funny feeling it would be on something that's soft. Usually, baseball's one of those things. [You get] one of those to fall in and then a bunch of hits come after that."

In the stands, Amaya's parents embraced and jumped up and down.

"They're living the dream, too," said the rookie. "They're crying so much. They're excited. And they feel like they hit that ball, too."

Amaya then caught a one-two-three ninth inning from reliever , who notched only his second career save. One game earlier, Amaya was behind the plate for lefty , who is one of baseball's top starters at the moment.

Steele entered Friday's outing having allowed no more than two earned runs in 13 consecutive starts. It is a streak not seen by a Cubs pitcher since Jake Arrieta's near-untouchable run across 2015-16. Amaya stepped right in, navigating through seven innings with Steele, who upped his streak to 14 such outings in a row.

"That was one of the guys back at the alt site I was throwing to, facing all the time," said Steele, referring to the 2020 season. "It's really special to work with him in the big leagues. He's worked his tail off to get here. He's a really special kid."

Steele hinted at it in his comments, but Amaya's road to Chicago has been filled with road blocks.

He was a two-time participant in the All-Star Futures Game when the Cubs added him to the 40-man roster in November of 2019. Then came the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, followed by multiple injury setbacks that limited Amaya to 63 total games across '21-22.

Amaya was still limited during Spring Training this year, but found moments to learn from the veteran catchers and get reps in outside of Cactus League games. Amaya then opened the year with Double-A, posting a robust 1.070 OPS through 13 games before the Cubs called.

"So far," Ross said, "for a guy that has had a lot of adversity and layoff and working his way back, and didn't get to get a whole lot of Spring Training at-bats with us and do some things with us, I've been impressed so far."

was hit with a back swing on Monday in Washington and landed on the concussion injured list on Wednesday. In between, Amaya was summoned from Tennessee, and then asked to step in for a team in win-now mode with one of the NL's top pitching staffs.

"He looks like an everyday player," Madrigal said. "He's done such an unbelievable job. Coming from Double-A, that's a huge jump. From the stadium to the pitching to everything, and it looks like he's handled it so well."

And after Saturday's win, Amaya knew just what to do as he soaked in the atmosphere.

"Singing that song, it's everything," Amaya said. "In front of the fans and watching that, this is insane. Wrigley Field is electric."