Yankees prospects team up to turn a high-flying double play

April 19th, 2024

In the scorebook, the top of the seventh inning of Thursday’s contest between High-A Aberdeen and Hudson Valley concluded on a flyout to the shortstop, who threw back to the first baseman to complete a double play.

But this was so much more.

Roc Riggio has spent all of his collegiate and professional career playing the middle infield. But the Yankees' No. 18 prospect channeled instincts that were part-outfielder and part-wide receiver as he ranged into shallow center field to snare a popup by Creed Willems (BAL No. 29) before immediately having his feet taken out from under him by center fielder Nelson Medina (who departed the game and was shaken up, but the team believes will be OK in the long run).

“My first instinct -- my only instinct, really -- was to go catch the ball," Riggio said. "I was going back -- waiting for someone to call me off, someone to say they got it. Infielders are taught to go up for the ball and outfielders are taught to go down. So in my head, I was just hoping [Medina] was going to go down, and if he did, I knew I was going to make the play.

“I was just thinking, ‘Go make the damn play’ and leave it all out there.”

Off the bat, getting one out seemed impressive, but two was downright improbable, especially considering second baseman Jared Serna (Yankees' No. 19 prospect) had also gone after the ball. But in order to complete the double play, Riggio had to roll over and fire the ball to the second-base bag, where first baseman Josh Moylan made a running scoop and beat retreating runner Hudson Haskin (BAL No. 25).

Riggio, who has seen similar plays go drastically wrong, knew which runners were on base and that there was only one out. So he quickly fired the ball back toward second, where he hoped a fielder was waiting. Moylan was the man on the spot.

“I just threw it right on the bag and you can’t make that play without him," Riggio said of the 21-year-old East Carolina product. "It’s awesome that he was there, that he was in the right spot.”

The timely pair of outs proved vital. Hudson Valley extended its lead in the bottom of the seventh before winning, 8-7, at Heritage Financial Park in walk-off fashion in the ninth on a wild pitch in an inning extended by Riggio's base hit. That Riggio was again a sparkplug on both sides of the diamond comes as no surprise to those who watched the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder star at Oklahoma State for two seasons.

“Heart over height,” Riggio told MLB.com's Bryan Hoch last summer. “I am a smaller guy, so I need to have that edge.”

A pantheon of unique double plays that have occurred throughout Major League history have collectively wowed us. While Riggio, whom the Yankees selected in the fourth round of the 2023 Draft, has just gotten his pro career underway, he already has a five-star play to hang his hat on.

“I want those plays to show up because I know I can make those plays," Riggio said. "I know I have the guts to go make a play like that or to dive into a fence or go up for a ball and lay out -- that’s part of my game.

“People have always called me a dirtbag [on the field], which I think is a compliment because I play with heart and I feel that’s the way the game should be played. We should respect the people that played this game before us and give it our all. For me, it comes down to: a lot of people wish they were doing what I was doing and I don’t want those people to look at me and say, ‘He’s not playing hard.’”