ST. PETERSBURG -- It was right about when Luke Maile got to second base that he realized what was coming.He already had the exhilaration of hitting a tape-measure home run -- the first of his Major League career -- that was projected by Statcast™ to have traveled 428 feet in
ST. PETERSBURG -- It was right about when Luke Maile got to second base that he realized what was coming.
He already had the exhilaration of hitting a tape-measure home run -- the first of his Major League career -- that was projected by Statcast™ to have traveled 428 feet in the Rays' 8-2 win on Saturday. And he had the pleasure of not questioning whether it would be a home run as he left the batter's box. But when he got to second base, he realized that the silent treatment would be waiting for him in the dugout.
He thought back to Richie Shaffer last season, high-fiving the air as his teammates ignored him. Maile didn't think he had that in him. Instead he went back into the dugout and waited with an awkward grin on his face until everyone else came to hug and congratulate him.
"I thought it was awesome," Maile said. "It was just so cool to be a part of that. And finally get on the board in the Major Leagues with a home run. It's hard to describe."
The second-inning home run off A.J. Griffin put the Rays up by two. After the game, Maile went to meet the fan who caught his home run ball and trade him a game-used bat for it in return. The fan who caught the ball was also named Luke, a 12-year-old Rays fan.
"Maile's first homer was awesome to see," manager Kevin Cash said. "He smoked that ball. I'm sure the reaction he got in the dugout was nice."
Maile has five hits and five RBIs in his last three games. After a cold spell at the plate, Maile is starting to show he has some ability on offense to complement his strong defense. Cash said he feels Maile has gotten a little bit more consistent, and he was impressed by his bunt on Saturday -- not just the long home run.
The rookie catcher is hitting .219 on the season in 64 at-bats. He had yet to show his power stroke, but showcased it in a big way with one swing. Maile said he's never actually envisioned what hitting his first Major League home run would feel like. He didn't know how to act when he got back to the dugout after it happened.
What he did know, though, was that his ball was long gone the instant it hit his bat.
"I've been battling at the plate," Maile said. "I've just been trying to find my swing. I felt really good the last couple of days. It was a great feeling."
Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.