NEW YORK -- It was the moment Zack Granite had dreamt of his whole life. A winner-take-all playoff game at Yankee Stadium and a feared reliever staring back at him. The local kid couldn't ask for much more.As a native of Staten Island and a Yankees fan growing up, Granite
NEW YORK -- It was the moment Zack Granite had dreamt of his whole life. A winner-take-all playoff game at Yankee Stadium and a feared reliever staring back at him. The local kid couldn't ask for much more.
As a native of Staten Island and a Yankees fan growing up, Granite had envisioned stepping up to the plate in front of a sold-out Yankee Stadium thousands of times, although on Tuesday night he found himself wearing a Twins uniform rather than pinstripes. With Minnesota in a 7-4 hole, he strode toward the batter's box to face Player Page for David Robertson and led off the sixth inning in the Twins' eventual 8-4 loss to the Yanks in the American League Wild Card Game. Granite pulled a single through the right side just under the glove of New York second baseman Starlin Castro for a base hit in his first postseason at-bat.
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"Playoff baseball, Yankee Stadium, competing against them was awesome," Granite said after the game. "Kind of came up short, but we weren't even supposed to be this far. So it's kind of cool, losing 100 games last year, coming back [this year], so hopefully we come back next year even stronger."
Granite had entered two innings prior to replace Byron Buxton in center field after Buxton was removed with upper back tightness following a collision with the outfield wall in the second inning.
In Granite's second at-bat, this time against reliever Tommy Kahnle, he dribbled a slow roller to first. Kahnle could not handle the toss from Greg Bird, and Granite would have been safe had he simply touched the base. Instead, Granite ran over the bag and Castro made a heads-up play to pick up the ball and tag Granite before he could retreat back to the bag. Granite was replaced in center field the following half-inning by Eddie Rosario, who slid over from left after Chris Gimenez entered the game at catcher.
Granite said he had "a ton" of family in the stands to cheer him on. They also came in droves when the Twins played a three-game series in the Bronx during the middle of September.
Even though it was the 24-year-old rookie's postseason debut, this wasn't the first time he experienced playoff success in the five boroughs. As a senior, his Tottenville High School team -- a perennial powerhouse in city baseball -- won the Public Schools Athletic League "A" Championship in 2010 when he hit .583 in the postseason. He went on to play his collegiate ball at nearby Seton Hall University in New Jersey, ultimately being taken in the 14th round of the 2013 Draft by Minnesota.
The season may not have ended the way Granite wanted it to, but he can look back on his first season in the Majors fondly, with an unforgettable Yankee Stadium experience to top it off.
"This whole experience for me was awesome," Granite said. "I got to watch one of the best center fielders [Buxton] go about his business and just kind of learn from everybody. I'm going to take that into the offseason and get better and work on my craft and try to make the team next year."
Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB