The bat, the glove, the wheels: Chourio does it all in debut

March 29th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Less than three weeks ago, was still a teenager. Now he's a big leaguer. And he just got to make his MLB debut on Opening Day.

Debuts like Chourio's don't happen very often. Chourio wasn't just playing his first Major League game, he was the Brewers' starting right fielder and leadoff hitter in Friday's season-opening 3-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field. And the No. 2 prospect in baseball is just 20 years and 18 days old.

That makes Chourio's first career game historic. Chourio is the youngest player in the Majors at the start of the 2024 season, the first player born in 2004 to make it to the big leagues and one of the youngest players to debut as his team's leadoff hitter on Opening Day in modern AL/NL history. Only Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, who was 19 years and 13 days old when he debuted for the Red Sox on Opening Day 1937, did so at a younger age.

"It actually makes me kind of happy knowing that I'm one of the younger ones out there," Chourio said through interpreter Daniel de Mondesert.

And it didn't take Chourio long to show why he earned that spot at the top of the order. He picked up his first career hit, his first career stolen base and his first career RBI in his debut, and he had a nice jumping catch in right field, too.

"I really didn't feel any nerves, or feel any pressure there," Chourio said.

First came the steal. Chourio led off the game by drawing a four-pitch walk against Jose Quintana, and he took off almost immediately.

With William Contreras batting after him, Chourio swiped second for his first career stolen base, diving in headfirst just ahead of the tag. He reached a sprint speed of 28.9 feet per second, much faster than the MLB average sprint speed of 27 ft/sec.

Then came the hit. Four innings later, Chourio poked a two-strike single into right field for his first knock as a big leaguer. As he pulled into first, a smile on his face, Chourio pumped his fist in the air.

"I love [manager Pat Murphy] throwing him right in the fire, throwing him at the top of the lineup and just letting him go play," said Rhys Hoskins. "Obviously he was right in the thick of a lot of the winning plays. That tells you what kind of baseball player he is."

After the game, the baseball from Chourio's first MLB hit sat in a case in his locker. That ball will go to Chourio's father, who was in attendance for his debut.

Chourio's parents flew to New York from Venezuela to see him play. Chourio's younger brother Jaison, a prospect for the Guardians, was there, too, with other members of the Chourio family. Chourio shared a moment with them on the field after the game.

"It's a dream come true," Chourio said. "My mom stopped working to give us the chance to play baseball. Just being able to have them here in the stands is a dream come true."

The moment he stepped into the batter's box, Chourio became the fifth-youngest player to start on Opening Day at any position in MLB’s divisional era (since 1969). The company he joined? All Hall of Famers.

The only younger players than Chourio with an Opening Day start in the past 55 years: Robin Yount in 1974 (18 years, 201 days old) and '75 (19 years, 204 days), Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989 (19 years, 133 days) and Adrián Beltré in 1999 (19 years, 363 days).

Yount is the only Brewer to take the field on Opening Day at a younger age than Chourio. Like Chourio, Yount's first Opening Day start was also his Major League debut.

For Chourio, a power-speed phenom built in the mold of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Julio Rodríguez, everything has been building toward this moment since he signed an eight-year, $82 million contract in December, a record for a player with no Major League experience.

That day marked Chourio as the future face of the Brewers franchise. And on Opening Day 2024, the future arrived.

"I'm super happy for him and his family," Murphy said. "You think about the weight that he carries around with him -- that's not an easy thing. He's a human being. It's not easy to have that pressure and that responsibility that he carries."

Murphy believed in Chourio enough to bat him No. 1 in his debut. But before he wrote Chourio's name in the leadoff spot, he consulted Christian Yelich, the team's veteran leader.

Yelich told Murphy: "Do it."

"I've been on the other side of it when it's your debut," Yelich said. "It's better to get it out of the way instead of sitting out there thinking about it for a couple of innings in anticipation.

"It's like, 'Hey, we're bringing him here -- let's run him out and see what he's got.'"