Bligh's delight: Madris' first MLB HR caps win

June 22nd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- The only person in the third-base dugout more excited than  was Cal Mitchell.

Fresh off a three-hit performance Monday in his Major League debut, Madris provided his encore in the Pirates' 7-1 win over the Cubs on Tuesday at PNC Park with his first career home run, a 394-foot blast that bounced onto the right-center-field concourse. As Madris rounded the bases, Mitchell jumped up and down with his arms in the air, celebrating the accomplishment of one of his best friends. Mitchell knew the feeling, and he wanted Madris’ moment to be just as special. 

“Sense of relief,” Madris said. “It's just amazing. Dream come true. And for it to happen today after yesterday it's just truly special.”

“It’s wonderful,” Mitchell said. “I know that feeling because I just recently had it. I know that it’s special. I want to make sure that the people that I have close to me, like Bligh, know that it’s special, because other people did that for me."

And what did those two tell one another when they met in the dugout? Well, that’s going to remain between them. 

“I said, ‘Good job.’ That’s the PG version,” Mitchell laughed. 

“Not even going to talk about that,” Madris said with a smile.

What should be talked about, though, is the play of Madris. For all the warranted hype Oneil Cruz generated on Monday evening, Madris is turning a few heads of his own.

At the plate, he’s 4-for-7 with the aforementioned homer, a double and a steal. He’s also acclimated himself to right field nicely, a tough task given the Clemente Wall’s abnormal dimensions. Madris hasn’t only made a pair of nice sliding catches in his two games, but on Tuesday, he perfectly played Jason Heyward’s line drive off the wall, holding the veteran to a single.

​​“The hype about Oneil is crazy, and he’s an unbelievable player. But it doesn’t go unseen what Bligh has done very quietly up here,” said Daniel Vogelbach, who had two hits, two walks and two RBIs. “You can say under the radar because [he came up] with Oneil. He’s had unbelievable at-bats. He’s played the heck out of defense in his two games out there.

“He does it quietly. You can tell he has a fire that wants to win. Those guys are contagious and you want to be around those guys.”

That Madris is here, in a Major League clubhouse with hits and homers to his name, is not an accomplishment he takes for granted.

Madris was drafted in the ninth round in 2017 out of Colorado Mesa University, not exactly a baseball powerhouse. He was never considered one of the team’s top prospects. He experienced his share of struggles down on the farm. Yet, all those roads led right here, right now.

“The past couple of days when I have a minute to myself, which has been rare the past two days, you kind of have to self-reflect and give yourself a look back and just realize, ‘I made my dream come true,’” Madris said. “My path was different compared to everyone else's, kind of a late bloomer out of high school and went Division II, but I couldn't have drawn that up any better, either.”

What made Tuesday's game even sweeter was the fact that two of his coaches from Colorado Mesa, head coach Chris “Skip” Hanks and associate head coach Sean McKinney, were in attendance to see Madris do something he did a couple times when he was in school: go yard.

“I'm truly grateful for those two, and they played a huge role getting me here to the big leagues, getting me drafted,” Madris said. “They've kind of taught me the base of everything I am now. It sets a foundation, along with my high school coach, so I'm truly grateful that they were here for it.”

Madris wasn’t the only rookie who contributed to the win. Cruz hit an 111.8 mph RBI single and stole his first career base. Jack Suwinski drew a pair of walks and scored twice. Roansy Contreras threw five innings of one-run ball. This team has received a plethora of contributions from a plethora of rookies, and Madris is just the latest.

And when his friends have their big moments? Madris will be right there, ready to celebrate -- even if the details remain in-house.

“It's the little things like that make it so much more fun,” Madris said.