For Maggi, 1st MLB hit proves 'you can do anything'

April 30th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- is headed back to the Minors, but not before his fantastic, feel-good big league story featured one more signature moment. And if that was the final scene in the eventual Maggi movie, he couldn’t have scripted it any better.

After 13 years and 1,154 games in the Minor Leagues, the 33-year-old Maggi notched his first Major League hit and RBI on Saturday night, lining a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning of the Pirates’ 16-1 victory in Game 2 of their doubleheader sweep over the Nationals. Pittsburgh won the opener, 6-3, then went up big early in the nightcap, setting the stage for a moment more than a decade in the making.

“I saw it go right through the middle,” an elated Maggi said at his locker postgame. “It’s so vivid in my mind right now. I was just happy that I got it done and got that weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Pinch-hitting in a 12-0 game, Maggi fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches and broke a bat before sending Hobie Harris’ 2-2 splitter clean into center field. The Pirates’ dugout erupted as he rounded first base, their enthusiasm matched by the sizable contingent of Pittsburgh fans at Nationals Park chanting Maggi’s name.

“Mag-gi! Mag-gi! Mag-gi!”

“That was great,” Maggi said. “It was kind of like, it’s do-or-die here. I know, of all people, that this can end very quickly. Then, who knows where it goes from there? Maybe I never get back up here, and that was it. That was going through my head the whole day, so I said, ‘I’m swinging. I’m going out hacking.’”

So sweet was the moment, Maggi then duplicated it, adding his first career extra-base hit -- a double off position player Lane Thomas -- in the ninth for good measure. Again, he received a rousing ovation.

“Mag-gi! Mag-gi! Mag-gi!”

Asked how he felt in those moments, Maggi said, “Just joy.” Though to hear him describe the journey that preceded them, relief and validation were certainly two of the many other emotions mixed up in there, too.

“It’s crazy to think that, in a week, you can change,” he said. “Obviously, I never gave up, and I believed I could do this. But now that it’s happened, it solidified that belief. It was just a special week for me, and I’ll never forget it.”

Drafted by the Pirates all the way back in 2010, Maggi accumulated 4,494 plate appearances in the Minors before earning his second big league callup on April 23 (he was called up by the Twins in 2021, but did not appear in a game). He made his first start on April 27, but he had gone hitless in his first four big league plate appearances.

Maggi knew his chances were dwindling by the minute. The Pirates optioned him back to Double-A Altoona on Saturday morning, but they were able to keep him active as the team’s 27th man for their doubleheader. Maggi didn’t appear in their Game 1 victory, and he didn’t start Game 2. He ended up stealing the show anyway, with two hits that nobody can take away from him, no matter what happens next.

“I didn’t know how long I was going to be up here,” he said. “I really wanted to get a hit. I’ve been kind of thinking about it the past day, two days. When I got in there, I was just trying to slow everything down. They were cheering my name, and I was just trying to breathe.”

Said Pirates manager Derek Shelton: “I was as excited as if we were in a one-run game. Everybody in that dugout has played baseball for a long time. They know what he’s put into it. And the fact that he got a hit was really, really cool.”

Maggi is so well-liked and respected in the Bucs’ clubhouse and his story of perseverance resonated so widely that his pinch-hit single shone brightest on a night the surging Pirates posted their first road win of 15-plus runs since 1975, connected for their longest grand slam since Statcast began tracking in 2015 (Jack Suwinski’s 444-foot blast) and continued to revel in their hottest start in 31 years.

Pittsburgh has now won 11 of its past 12 games, set a franchise record for wins before May and will enter Sunday’s series finale with the best record in the National League, riding high on the wave of a historic start.

“It’s heartwarming,” said winning pitcher Vince Velasquez, who tossed six scoreless frames. “Goosebumps were running down my arms.”

For Maggi, the made-for-silver-screen moment was the culmination of a Major League dream finally realized.

“It’s crazy to think [about] everything that’s happened this last week,” Maggi said. “I was in [Double-A] Altoona, where we probably had 100 fans at a game. I was getting called “coach” and “grandpa.” … To go from that a week ago to this -- I can’t even explain it, I can’t really describe how I feel about it. It’s been amazing.

“It’s just special. My mom, my parents, got to watch me play a big league game. All the thanks I’ve gotten from my old teammates, all the real grinders of baseball -- a lot of this was for them. For me, I’ll carry with me the idea that you can do anything."