SAN FRANCISCO -- When he was selected by the Tigers in the eighth round of the 2011 Draft, Jason Krizan received a piece of advice from his father: “Play until someone doesn’t give you a uniform anymore.”
Krizan took those words to heart, though his resolve was tested as he spent the next 11 years grinding in the Minors, appearing in 1,132 games for three organizations. His long, winding road to the Majors finally came to an end on Friday night, when the 32-year-old journeyman received his first callup with the Giants in a 14-4 series-opening loss to the Nationals at Oracle Park.
“For me, personally, it was awesome,” Krizan said. “Obviously, I wish we would have won. But being able to come out and play in a Major League Baseball game was an awesome experience. It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
Krizan started in left field and went 0-for-3 with a walk in his Major League debut, but the moment was an unquestioned triumph for him and his family members, many of whom flew in from Texas to be in the stands for the game. Krizan’s wife, Kristin, became emotional as she watched her husband step into the box for his first Major League at-bat against Nationals right-hander Aaron Sanchez in the second inning, wiping away a tear as she held the couple’s 2-year-old son, Carter.
“I think he’s a pretty cool story,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “A guy in his 30s makes his Major League debut after all that time in the Minor Leagues, grinding as hard as he did and making such a good impression on our organization. … It’s not the same as coming up through the Minor Leagues with the club, but there’s a lot of pride when a guy like Jason makes his Major League debut.”
Krizan had found himself on the precipice of the Majors a few times before finally breaking through on Friday. A versatile left-handed hitter who can shift between the infield and outfield, Krizan impressed the Giants by batting .316 with an .859 OPS and 16 home runs over 110 games for Triple-A Sacramento in 2021. He traveled to Cincinnati as part of the club’s taxi squad last May, but the Giants didn’t end up activating him for the series.
Krizan found himself on standby again earlier this week, when he flew to Milwaukee to provide coverage for the Giants as they braced for the possibility of more COVID-19 cases following Mike Yastrzemski’s positive test on Sunday. Krizan wasn’t added to the roster on Monday, but the Giants instructed him to fly back to San Francisco, where he received the long-awaited call from Kapler on Thursday afternoon.
“It would have been easy to just give up, but I’m glad I’m still here,” Krizan told reporters before the game. “I’m very thankful for the grind. My road to the big leagues wasn’t normal, but I’m thankful for my journey.”
It took a confluence of events for Krizan to get here. The Giants were already down three left-handed hitters after placing LaMonte Wade Jr., Steven Duggar and Yastrzemski on the injured list, and they lost another, Joc Pederson, to a right adductor strain on Wednesday. Pederson managed to avoid the IL, but he’s considered day to day with a Grade 1 strain. The injury concerns continued to mount when the Giants placed two more players -- Brandon Belt and Dominic Leone -- on the COVID-19 IL after they tested positive on Friday.
Players on the COVID-19 IL don’t count against the 40-man roster, opening a few spots on the Giants’ 28-man roster for Krizan, reliever Mauricio Llovera and outfielder Ka’ai Tom, who were selected from Triple-A prior to the game. Krizan said one of the first people he texted after learning of his promotion was Giants catcher Curt Casali, a fellow member of the Tigers’ 2011 Draft class.
“Anytime you have a guy that makes his debut after that much time in the Minor Leagues, you hear guys talk in the clubhouse, ‘I don’t know if I could have done that,’” left-hander Alex Wood said. “It’s that much of a grind. For him to keep his head down, keep working and turn himself into the player that he’s become, I’m just really happy for him.”
It’s unclear how long Krizan will stay, but he’s simply grateful that he’ll be able to say that his son watched him become a big leaguer -- even if Carter might not realize it quite yet.
“My son doesn’t know what’s going on right now, but being able to tell him that I got to the big leagues, it means everything,” Krizan said. “My son ran up to me [during batting practice]. I hadn’t seen him since the end of Spring Training, and that was the moment where I almost started crying. He’s the light of my world, so just to have him here is unbelievable.”