After long trip, Alu able to share MLB debut with loved ones

May 10th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- Judy and Phil Alu had just completed their two-hour trip back home to New Jersey from Scranton, Pa. -- where they had watched their son, , homer for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings on Sunday -- when the phone rang.

Jake was FaceTiming. He asked his parents how their drive was; the conversation didn’t seem out of the ordinary. Then, they noticed a grin creep onto his face.

“That was the giveaway,” said a smiling Judy.

Alu, 26, had been called up by the Nationals to make his Major League debut. Four years after being selected by Washington in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, he was going to join the club in San Francisco on Monday. Alu, ranked as the Nationals’ No. 27 prospect by MLB Pipeline, made team history (2005-present) as the lowest drafted position player to make his big league debut with the Nats.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings ever,” Alu said. “... That’s something that you look forward to hearing your whole life, so that was a special moment.”

After Alu delivered the news to his parents and girlfriend Genevieve McCann (also with a FaceTime call that left her speechless), the travel planning began for a reunion at Oracle Park.

Judy, Phil and Genevieve purchased one-way tickets for Monday morning. With little time for logistics the night before, Judy booked their hotel minutes before takeoff.

Alu, meanwhile, had traveled with the Red Wings back to Rochester on Sunday, then took a Monday morning flight that connected in Chicago and got into San Francisco around noon. McCann, who landed an hour earlier, was waiting at his gate with an iced coffee when he arrived. Seeing her as he stepped off the plane gave him an immediate sense of calm in a whirlwind situation.

“She’s the most humbling person of all time,” he said, adding, “It kind of brings you back to the normal: This is life, this is reality.”

McCann and the Alus came to Oracle Park on Monday to watch Jake take batting practice for the first time as a big leaguer. The excitement went to another level on Tuesday when he was in the starting lineup in left field for his debut in the Nationals’ 4-1 loss to the Giants.

“It’s incredible,” Judy said. “You’re so happy when they’re happy, and to watch him achieve his dream, it’s just incredible. It’s incredible.”

Echoed Phil, “For him, it’s the world. He’s been doing this since he’s been 6 years old, and he’s had drive like no other kid I’ve seen. I’m proud of him. It’s awesome. It’s really awesome.”

The trio beamed as they stood on the field and watched Jake warm up. Their phones followed each ball he made contact with during BP.

“The three of us have been to so many games together these past few years, and just seeing him make his debut now is just so cool,” said McCann. “He’s such a hard worker. He really deserved this.”

Alu played four years at Boston College and four seasons in the Minors. He turned heads last year when he hit .323 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs in 59 games after advancing midseason to Triple-A. Jake earned the “Nationals Way” Award and was protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

Alu was in Major League camp with the Nats, where he dealt with a left knee injury that landed him on the injured list, and he began the season in Rochester. Healthy, he was called up when center fielder Victor Robles was placed on the 10-day IL (back spasms). Alu became the fourth player to make his Major League debut with the Nationals this season.

“He works hard, and he’s worked to put up some good numbers in the Minor Leagues,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He’s earned the right to be up here. He’s moved to different positions, he’s played well. All of a sudden last year, they put him in left field and he did well out there. But he can hit. He puts the ball in play, and we love that about him.”

Alu still is searching for his first big league hit after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Martinez noted “he’s going to give you everything he’s got” and expects to see him on the field the next time they face a righty.

“Now that everything’s over, it’s just a regular baseball game now,” said Alu. “I’m looking to build off tonight and see how we progress.”

Alu’s parents and girlfriend will fly back home and then travel to Washington, D.C., this weekend. The trip will be a lot shorter that time, but this cross-country trek gave them miles of memories.

“It was incredible,” said Alu. “The fact that I was able to share this moment with them -- they’ve been there every step of the way. Definitely something really, really special for me.”