DETROIT -- The baseball which Indians second baseman Ernie Clement hit for his first big league homer was something he relished receiving after it was retrieved Friday night at Comerica Park.
What he didn’t count on was the prospect of actually having some relish on that memento recovered by his teammates.
“It’s really funny,” Clement said. “They played a little joke on me. They put ketchup and mustard all over the ball. They said that it landed in somebody’s hot dog, and they gave it to me, saying, ‘Here’s your ball.’ It’s all covered in ketchup and mustard and I kind of believed them.
“Then they gave me the real one. And I’m going to give that to my dad, so it’s really cool.”
What about the ketchup and mustard horsehide with Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr.’s signature stamped on the sweet spot?
“I kept the one with the ketchup, too,” said Clement, grinning through it all. “It’ll go on the mantel.”
Clement, a right-handed hitter, got his first homer in the third inning for the first hit surrendered by Tigers starter Tyler Alexander. Clement took that one to the opposite field in right. His second homer went to left, coming off Derek Holland in the seventh inning.
What was going through his mind as his second homer in three at-bats sailed a Statcast-projected 394 feet into the stands?
“It was pretty much a lot of surprise,” said Clement. “I couldn’t believe I clipped another one. I’d hit three home runs in my whole [Minor League] career. So I don’t really know exactly how it feels to hit home runs. But I hit that one really well, and I kind of knew it was out.
“I don’t have the ol' Franmil [Reyes] bat flip in my arsenal.”
Clement hit only three homers in 1,075 Minor League at-bats, but had two in the Indians’ 7-4 win over the Tigers, getting them on his 89th and 91st at-bats in the Majors, respectively.
He joked afterward with reporters about going to the weight room so he could “hit a couple more,” and Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale had him in the starting lineup again Saturday night. Clement, hitting .250 with seven RBIs, batted ninth.
Hale noted, “He’s just trying to establish himself in the big leagues, and he put a couple of good swings on some balls. And I’m sure it felt good to him.”
The manager added that he hoped Clement would maintain the level swing that got him to the Majors. Some hitters lacking natural power have been known to swing from their heels to keep a power surge going.
Clement joined a list of Cleveland players who hit first and second career homers in the same game, joining Manny Ramirez (555 career homers, 15th all time), among others.
“I did not know that,” said Clement. “But any time you’re on a list with Manny, that’s great. That’s sweet. That’s awesome.”
Clement made the All-College World Series team in 2017 while leading the University of Virginia to its first national championship, before he was drafted by Cleveland in the fourth round during that run.
He finally made it to the Majors on May 30, but he was returned to the Minors shortly before getting another recall June 13.
Clement hardly cemented a roster spot with the two homers, but it was a big step in the right direction for him.
The Indians had lost, 17-0, Thursday to the Athletics in Cleveland, and were off to a lethargic start Friday. Alexander hadn’t allowed a ball out of the infield against the first eight batters he retired in order.
“I just tried to be a spark plug,” said Clement. “I just tried to get the boys going. I just tried to do my job. It was awesome, and I was glad we could get the win.”
It was a night Clement will never forget.