Pratto's 2nd MLB homer a walk-off flashback

Rookie first baseman adds 424-foot blast to beat Red Sox to his LLWS winner

August 7th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- As soon as the ball landed over the center-field wall at Kauffman Stadium for a walk-off home run in the Royals’ 5-4 win over the Red Sox on Saturday night, Nick Pratto was fired up.

The rookie first baseman pumped his fist. He screamed in jubilation. He rounded the bases with the energy of a 12-year-old who just hit a walk-off single in the Little League World Series.

Pratto knows what that feeling is like because, well, he did hit a walk-off single in the 2011 Little League World Series to lift Ocean View over Japan in 2011. Pratto was fired up then. He pumped his fist. He screamed in jubilation.

Eleven years later, the walk-off reaction was the same.

Nick Pratto's reaction to his Little League World Series and now Major League walk-off hits.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Pratto sent a 3-2 changeup from Red Sox reliever Garrett Whitlock a Statcast-projected 424 feet. The 23-year-old believes it’s the first walk-off hit of his professional career and the first since that famous Little League single.

“You might have to check the tapes on that, but I don’t remember any other time,” Pratto said. “I walk a lot late in games. I don’t know if I’ve ever had any other times. I’ve had game-winning, but not walk-offs. Long time ago.”

Pratto was subdued a bit postgame when talking to reporters in the Royals’ clubhouse, but his teammates were not, celebrating the rookie’s first home run at Kauffman Stadium and the victory that put Kansas City a win away from taking three of four from the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon.

“I was so happy to see Nick so fired up like that,” starter Daniel Lynch said. “I know the work he’s put in, his journey, watching every step of the way with him. Really proud of him and really just so happy for my friend to be able to experience something like that.”

The energy felt as Pratto rounded the bases, with his teammates surrounding him at home plate in unadulterated joy, was palpable. The Royals have a young roster and are deploying six or seven rookies in the lineup in any given game. The club is trying to build something special with a young group of players who have spent most of their professional careers in the same clubhouse.

The final two months of the 2022 season are all about embracing that.

“I think it’s extra special to have a bunch of their buddies around,” manager Mike Matheny said. “This is a unique situation. We have so many guys who have come up together, and they’re all pulling for each other, and they’ve all helped each other get here by pushing each other, too.

“They’re excited to be here to win. We talk about their energy, but it’s their drive and coachability, where we’re just getting them things every day, and they’re taking it all in. And we’re watching them get better.”

A back-and-forth affair on Saturday was driven by the rookies. MJ Melendez homered in the Royals’ first at-bat of the game, Pratto in the last. In between, Bobby Witt Jr. drove in two with a single in the third and Kyle Isbel crushed a solo homer in the fourth.

The Red Sox erased three deficits against Lynch, who allowed four runs in six innings.

Still, the Royals’ offense held on, and the bullpen was deployed in the right moments -- closer Scott Barlow worked the eighth inning because the Red Sox had the middle of the order up -- to set up Pratto’s moment.

Whitlock threw everything at Pratto, nibbling around the edges with sinkers, four-seamers and changeups. Pratto saw a total of eight pitches, fouling two of them off to set up the middle-middle changeup.

“I felt like I was hanging in there, not chasing around the zone,” Pratto said. “Bought myself that mistake late in the at-bat.”

By now, many people know Pratto’s journey to the Majors. From being the Royals’ first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft to his struggles in Class A Advanced Wilmington in ‘19, when he hit just .191, Pratto has come into his own the last two years. Now he’s viewed as the first baseman of the future, and on Saturday he showed what’s to be expected as he settles into Kansas City with his best friends surrounding him.

“The setting definitely makes it a lot more special for all of us,” Pratto said. “Going through stuff as much as we did, and having that sense of, ‘We’re here.’ We love to compete, every single one of us. That’s a good thing to one, be a part of, and two, to watch.”