Wrigley rocks after rookie homers in 1st AB

May 18th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Christopher Morel called it. The Cubs rookie was not even sure he was going to get an at-bat, but late in Tuesday's game at Wrigley Field, he made a prediction to Willson Contreras.

Morel told Contreras that he would launch a homer in his first career at-bat -- just like the Cubs’ veteran catcher did six years ago. In the eighth inning, Morel got his chance, and he applied an exclamation point on a 7-0 win over the Pirates, delivering a pinch-hit blast that shook the Friendly Confines.

Morel was as shocked as anyone else.

"In this moment, I don't think too much," Morel said. "I say, 'Oh my God.'"

Morel's first career trot around the bases was an adventure.

After hammering an elevated fastball from Chase De Jong to the back of the left-field bleachers, he did a casual, underhanded bat flip. He punched the air and spun up the first-base line. He missed the bag while rounding first, but used his brief retreat as a chance to flex and howl before continuing on. He pointed skyward and slapped his helmet around third. At home, he hugged Jonathan Villar.

Contreras -- the last Cubs batter to homer in his first career at-bat, doing so on the first pitch on June 19, 2016, against Pittsburgh -- hurdled the dugout railing as the ball soared out. He jumped in celebration and, following Morel's return to the dugout, pushed the rookie up the steps for a curtain call.

"I've known this guy for a really long time, and he makes me proud," Contreras said. "It was amazing. He told me [he would homer], and I felt like he was going to get something done. But I was thinking of a base hit. Just a base hit. Just blooper. Just something positive.

"And once I saw the ball going out, I was like, that was a no-doubt. That kid has some pop in his bat."

The Cubs summoned the 22-year-old Morel from Double-A Tennessee prior to the game, adding a versatile defender with an intriguing offensive profile to the bench. In 28 games for the Smokies, he hit .306/.380/.565 with seven homers, 20 RBIs and 22 runs. MLB Pipeline ranks him 21st on the Cubs' Top 30 prospects list.

When Morel arrived in manager David Ross' office on Tuesday, he brought up something he told his skipper during Spring Training.

"On the half-field, he's like, 'You're going to see me this year,'" Ross said. "He reminded me of that when I congratulated him on being here this morning. That's impressive."

Morel was already on the 40-man roster -- making him a candidate for a callup given Chicago's recent rash of injuries -- but he still was in disbelief when Double-A manager Michael Ryan delivered the news. One day later, Morel could not believe what was happening at Wrigley Field.

"I never would think that the Cubs fans would give me this," Morel said. "It is amazing for me."

Morel was referring to the raucous reception throughout his first plate appearance. With the Cubs holding a 6-0 lead, he fell down in the count, 0-2. The crowd shifted to its feet and the decibel level climbed in the old ballpark as he worked the count full.

"I concentrated," Morel said. "And I said, 'I can do it. I can do it. I've done it before, so I can do it right now.' That's what I was thinking."

When Morel took the field to play third base in the ninth inning, his audience roared once again. He smiled wide and hoisted his cap high in the air in response.

"Good for him, right?" Ross said with a laugh. "Shoot, man. That's the stuff you dream about."