'It feels amazing': Celesten makes pro debut at Spring Breakout makeup

March 24th, 2024

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners No. 5 prospect grabbed his bat in the dugout and stared into the inside of his helmet for about 10 seconds before taking a big breath in the eighth inning.

As the 18-year-old stepped into the on-deck circle under the sunshine that peeked through the clouds above at Peoria Sports Complex, a fan eagerly awaited his first glimpse of the exciting Mariners prospect.

The fan took a video of Celesten, who was sporting custom Mariners colorway Jordan 1 cleats that read “The Fenix” across the heels, taking practice swings before walking away with a wide smile. The anticipation on the young fan’s face might as well reflect the entire Seattle organization.

That’s because despite signing for $4.7 million in 2023, Celesten didn’t record his first professional at-bat until Saturday’s Spring Breakout 13-10 loss against the Padres.

Celesten suffered a Grade 2 hamstring injury in an intrasquad game in June of 2023 -- two days before Dominican Summer League play -- that resulted in him missing his first professional season. He could have made his professional debut last week, but rare heavy March rain in Arizona caused the Mariners' original Spring Breakout to be delayed.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Celesten said in Spanish. “If God wanted me to wait until today, it had to be that way.”

His first plate appearance resulted in a seven-pitch battle that ended in a groundout to third base, but Celesten made it a close play with his speed. He snuck in one last at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, where he pounced on the first pitch but grounded out to short to end the game.

Most players wouldn't be pleased to finish 0-for-2 in their professional debut, but the adversity Celesten faced to get to this point made it a special day regardless of the outcome. It was a moment that the Dominican shortstop worked his entire life for.

“It feels amazing,” Celesten said. “It was a really emotional moment for me because I wanted to show everyone what I can do.

“I’m feeling really good right now. Spring Training has been an amazing experience for me as a young player and selected me to experience this opportunity.”

The switch-hitter admitted the timing of the injury brought down his spirits, but he realized that instead of dwelling on it, he could use the downtime to learn from other players and study the game more en route to his return. He recovered by the end of the summer and focused his time in the weight room, where he added 10-15 pounds of muscle.

“He’s filling out a lot of the T-shirts we’re giving him,” Mariners Minor League hitting coordinator CJ Gillman said earlier in Spring Training.

When Celesten signed with the Mariners, he was regarded to have one of the highest ceilings for an international prospect, making him the most anticipated international prospect since Marco Luciano of the Giants. Scouts raved about Celesten’s ability to show power from both sides of the plate while possessing strong defense at shortstop.

However, Celesten says he has grown from when he inked his deal with Seattle, both as a player, and as a person. His experience in this year’s Spring Training allowed him to watch superstar Julio Rodríguez, the Mariners' top international signing in 2017, go about his professional routine. He sees Rodríguez as an example for many of the young international players on what can be accomplished in the Majors. And with Celesten’s first healthy season looming, he hopes to start a foundation to reach those same goals.

“My number one goal is to have fun playing baseball,” Celesten said. “I really want to enjoy this process as much as I can while performing to the best of my abilities in my first full year with the organization.”