O’s pull off wild comeback in Holliday’s much anticipated debut

April 11th, 2024

BOSTON -- An AL East rivalry matchup, an energetic crowd of 27,936 filled into Fenway Park, a hard-fought baseball game and an Orioles win.

couldn’t be much more pleased with his first taste of MLB action.

“It’s all I could have imagined. Playing in the big leagues, a stadium full of fans and two really good teams, I can’t ask for more,” Holliday said. “Except for maybe, like, four hits. But that’s a lot to ask for. It was an awesome experience.”

MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, so it wasn’t the best big league debut from a statistical standpoint. But Holliday contributed an RBI and enjoyed being part of Baltimore’s 7-5 comeback victory over Boston, a game the O’s once trailed, 5-0.

Holliday’s groundout to second base in the sixth brought home Colton Cowser from third, part of a three-run rally that cut the Red Sox’s lead to 5-3. The Orioles then struck for four runs in the seventh, going ahead for good on Jordan Westburg’s three-run homer that landed on top of the Green Monster.

Holliday (20 years and 128 days old) became the fourth-youngest player in franchise history to record an RBI in his MLB debut, behind only Brooks Robinson (18 years, 122 days on Sept. 17, 1955), Andy Etchebarren (19 years, 98 days on Sept. 26, 1962) and Ron Hansen (20 years, 10 days on April 15, 1958).

“To be able to go out there and win and have an RBI -- I mean, it’s pretty awesome just to be here,” said Holliday, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.

It was a day the Stillwater (Okla.) High School graduate had dreamt of his entire life, a lot of which has been spent at big league ballparks thanks to his dad, former All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday. Much of the family was in attendance for Jackson’s debut, seated in the front row next to the Orioles’ third-base dugout.

There wasn’t one specific moment that stood out to Holliday from the night. It was all of them.

“Just getting to compete against these guys that I’ve watched on TV for so long, guys like [Boston third baseman Rafael] Devers, it’s really cool,” Holliday said. “I’m standing out there, looking around, the Monster, and all the people, they’re singing the songs. It was a really cool experience.”

While playing mostly second base during Spring Training, Holliday often felt he wasn’t getting enough defensive action in games. In his MLB debut, it took little time for him to get involved.

During the second inning, Holliday smoothly fielded a grounder hit off the bat of Boston’s Masataka Yoshida, then tossed it to shortstop Gunnar Henderson, who completed a 4-6-3 double play. MLB Pipeline’s current No. 1 overall prospect and a former No. 1 prospect combined for a nice play up the middle.

Get used to seeing that, Orioles fans.

Before the game, Holliday said he thought he’d be more excited than nervous. Afterward, he expressed the same sentiment.

“I wasn’t very nervous,” Holliday said. “Obviously, my results weren’t what I liked. But I wasn’t nervous. I felt comfortable on defense. I felt comfortable at the plate.”

His new teammates agreed.

“He seemed like he was the same person that I saw in Spring Training,” Westburg said. “To me, it seemed like it didn’t faze him. And I think that just speaks to his maturity, his confidence in his whole game.”

Added left-hander Cole Irvin: “I’m excited for him. I’m glad he’s here, and he’s going to be good for us.”

Holliday is in the Majors now because the Orioles felt he was ready. It may only be a matter of time before his bat gets going, as he batted .333 (14-for-42) over 10 games at Triple-A Norfolk to open the season and raked at all four full-season Minor League affiliates last year.

Perhaps Holliday will notch his first MLB hit Thursday in the series finale at Fenway Park. There isn’t quite as much pressure on a player for his second big league game as his debut. He also won’t be playing a night game after waking up at 4:30 a.m. ET to catch a flight from Richmond, Va., to Boston.

No excuses, though. Holliday is ready to regroup, recover and return for his second game and the many more to follow.

“I’m here. I couldn’t be happier to be here,” Holliday said. “It doesn’t matter how much sleep I got, I was going to go out there and compete to the best of my abilities. Excited to get a full night’s rest tonight and get back out there tomorrow.”