NEW YORK -- A big leaguer's first career hit is always the toughest one to get under his belt, but for Kyle Higashioka, it was well worth the wait.After battling through 22 hitless at-bats, Higashioka recorded his first hit in style on Sunday night, crushing an 89.1-mph cutter from left-hander
NEW YORK -- A big leaguer's first career hit is always the toughest one to get under his belt, but for Kyle Higashioka, it was well worth the wait.
After battling through 22 hitless at-bats, Higashioka recorded his first hit in style on Sunday night, crushing an 89.1-mph cutter from left-hander David Price into the second deck in left field in the Yankees' 11-1 win over the Red Sox.
"My biggest concern tonight was making sure we get a win," Higashioka said. "Obviously I couldn't be happier that the hit came in a win over the Red Sox, and it was a home run."
The blast, which had an exit velocity of 106.4 mph and traveled a Statcast-projected 401 feet, also accounted for another milestone. It was the Yankees' 135th home run of the season, breaking the franchise record for most homers prior to the All-Star break.
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Higashioka is the first Yankee to homer for his first big league hit since Christopher Austin and Aaron Judge went back to back in their first career plate appearances on Aug. 13, 2016, and Higashioka is the first Bomber to do so against the Red Sox since Andy Phillips in 2004.
"That's the kind of power we've seen from him at times," manager Aaron Boone said. "I felt like eventually if he got a pitch -- especially from a lefty -- that he could do some damage with, he'd eventually get them. He had a couple good swings. He almost hit another one, but that was a big time shot for your first hit."
As Higashioka rounded third base, his teammates moved away from the dugout steps preparing to give the young catcher the silent treatment in response to the big knock. The rookie gave high fives to Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks on the on-deck circle before getting surprised when he stepped into a quiet dugout. He gave pretend high-fives to imaginary people before his teammates broke the silence, piling on him to celebrate.
"I laughed," Higashioka said of the silent treatment. "I didn't expect it, but I mean, obviously, it was amazing. It was just a great feeling. The guys, they love to have fun here, so it's awesome."
Although he had yet to see it after the game, Higashioka said that the Yankees had secured the home run ball. As he got back to his locker, the catcher said he still needed to respond to over 100 messages that he had received. Because he hadn't had time to get on his phone, Higashioka missed Didi Gregorius' traditional postgame tweet where he gave the rookie his new emoji: a fencer.
"You mean like sword fighting?" Higashioka said when asked if he knew the meaning behind the emoji. "Oh, yeah. Sometimes they call me Samurai, so that's the sword -- sword fighting. It's funny."
Prior to Sunday, Higashioka played in nine games in 2017, going 0-for-18 with two walks. He hit .191 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 51 games for Triple-A this season before being called up on Monday when Gary Sanchez went on the disabled list and entered Sunday 0-for-3 with one start backing up Austin Romine.
Because Romine was given the day off in the series finale against the Red Sox after being pulled from Saturday's game with left hamstring tightness, Higashioka got the start on Sunday, setting him up for his big night.
"I remember being there. Trying to come up and make a name," Romine said. "It's good to see a guy that you got drafted around the same time, come up through the system, home grown, all that stuff. It's nice to see a guy who keeps plugging away, gone through some injuries, come back from it and just keep pushing it. It's a good story. You see a guy that keeps working at it and eventually gets his chance again and tonight was a good night for him. He hit a home run on Sunday Night Baseball against the Red Sox. I was happy for him."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.