'I've been through everything': Katoh records first MLB hit

April 28th, 2022

TORONTO -- Gosuke Katoh was fighting back tears when he took the Rogers Centre field in the fifth inning.

The utility man was fresh off a wave of high-fives and congrats after earning his first career big league hit in the Blue Jays' 7-1 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday -- a double to left-center field with two outs in the bottom of the fourth off Boston starter Michael Wacha.

Teammates Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman playfully called out Katoh for his solemn expression as they got ready to field in the fifth. But the emotions were justified. Katoh had been cooking up this moment for a while.

“I’ve been through everything in the Minor Leagues,” Katoh said. “Through chaos and through stability. And I’ve learned how to overcome anything.”

Katoh was a second-round selection of the Yankees in the 2013 Draft, bouncing around the club’s Minor League system through 2019. He then elected free agency and signed a Minor League deal with the Marlins in December 2019 before landing with the Padres in November 2020. His first stint in the Majors didn’t happen until this season, when Katoh broke camp with Toronto.

That fabled first hit came in his seventh game and followed a demotion to Triple-A Buffalo and a subsequent recall earlier in April.

“I’m not a guy for individual accomplishments,” he said. “I’ve never been like that. But when I hit that double, I got to second and I looked in the dugout. … I get my happiness from other people’s happiness. And I saw the whole dugout screaming and cheering. That was the moment where I got really happy. I couldn’t have done it without these teammates, and all the teammates and staff that I’ve been with for the past nine or 10 years.”

Batting eighth, Katoh hit a sharp drive that may very well have been a single if he were a lesser baserunner. But the speedy left-handed batter hustled up to second, landing a feet-first slide and beating Kiké Hernández’s throw.

“I was thinking two out of the box,” Katoh said. “I was gonna go.”

Katoh’s bat wasn’t the primary reason the Blue Jays gave him a Minor League deal in December, but even before his milestone hit, he had been quietly putting up quality plate appearances of late. In eight trips to the batter’s box this season, Katoh has worked two walks, struck out once and scored two runs.

He hasn’t chased many pitches outside the zone and has proven willing to take whatever is given. Pair that patience at the plate with an ability to play first, second, third and left field -- to go along with quality baserunning -- and it makes sense why Toronto took a chance on Katoh.

“Having a roster full of All-Stars and MVPs really helps me out,” said Katoh. “I just have to do my job and let the stars do their thing. … I don’t have to get homers; I don’t have to do a lot. I just have to get on base.”

Katoh had to pause his sentences a couple of times, as teammates and coaching staff approached his locker to congratulate him on his accomplishment.

“These are the things that really get me excited,” he said after shaking a few hands.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo says he knows exactly how that moment must have felt. Montoyo played eight years of Minor League ball before earning his first promotion. His first of two MLB hits came at the age of 27, which happens to be how old Katoh is.

“Of course, I’m hoping he gets more than the two hits that I got,” Montoyo joked. “I hope he gets many more, but it was awesome. Everybody was happy for him, because we all know how tough it is to get to the big leagues and then to get a hit. And he got it.

“No one can take that away from you.”

In his super-utility role, it’s likely Katoh will see more stints with Triple-A Buffalo this season, especially once players such as Teoscar Hernández, Danny Jansen and Cavan Biggio return to the lineup.

If and when the time comes, he’ll be ready for that, too.

“The role that I’m in, I fully embrace it,” said Katoh. “Nothing scares me.”