A dream come true: Jung homers in first MLB AB

Rangers' top prospect adds single and steal in highly anticipated Major League debut

September 10th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- readily admitted that he was nervous to make his MLB debut on Friday against the Blue Jays.

It’s everything he had been working for his entire life, the third baseman explained. Jung told his parents when he was 11 years old that he would hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat, whenever that may be.

Now the moment was here.

As the 24-year-old stepped into the box to lead off the third inning in his first big league at-bat, the nerves weren’t apparent at all. Instead, the Rangers’ top prospect fulfilled his childhood dream and drove a middle-middle changeup and launched his first career home run a Statcast-projected 388 feet over the left-center-field wall off Toronto’s Ross Stripling.

As the theme music to “The Natural” played on the Globe Life Field speakers and fireworks went off, Jung didn’t even think he was conscious while running the bases with a grin on his face. 

“Absolutely, I was still nervous,” Jung said postgame. “I was just trying to control my heart rate the whole time. I think that was the biggest key for me tonight, was just keeping the heart rate down. To just breathe, soak it all in, and I just got some good pitches to hit.”

After a blooping single in the seventh inning, Jung finished the night 2-for-4 with the home run to complete his MLB debut in the Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays. 

Jung is just the second player in Rangers history (since 1972) to hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat, joining Jurickson Profar, who did it on Sept. 2, 2012, at Cleveland. Joey Gallo also homered in his first big league game in 2015. 

Jung also joined Anderson Tejeda in 2020 as the only players in Rangers history to hit a homer and steal a base in his Major League debut. He’s the 12th player in American League/National League history to accomplish the feat.

“It was my speed that got me there,” joked Jung, notably not a base-stealer with his 40-grade run tool.

Before the game, interim manager Tony Beasley pointed to the debuts of two other former Rangers prospects that stood out to him: Gallo and Nomar Mazara. They’re all special moments, but when highly touted prospects come through the organization, it feels special to be part of it.

“I’m excited to share this with him,” Beasley said postgame. “To debut like that, especially with the first at-bat to hit the home run, it’s special. Not everybody gets that. It's a very difficult thing to do, to step up and get that out of the way, your first home run in the Major Leagues. It's an accomplishment, so I’m excited to be able to witness that and to share in that with him.”

Jung, MLB’s No. 39 overall prospect, was expected to compete for the Rangers’ Opening Day third base job. But shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum early in camp left him sidelined until early August.

Jung played eight games on a rehab assignment in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League before heading to Triple-A Round Rock, where he hit .273/.321/.525 with six homers in 23 games before getting called up on Friday.

Despite all the setbacks, the energy was palpable in a stadium where Rangers fans haven’t had much to cheer for since it opened in 2020. The crowd was energized during each at-bat, feeling the fulfillment of the expectations Jung -- a San Antonio native and Texas Tech alum -- has shouldered since being selected in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2019 MLB Draft.

Beasley said he wants Jung to embrace that, to embrace everything about being on this stage, while having fun and putting in the work to get better every day. 

“[It was] goosebumps, honestly, with the first about or even when my name got announced before the game during the lineups,” Jung said. “I'm just kind of reminded like this is the start of the journey that I want to be on, the track that I want to go. So it was pretty cool. It's pretty special. But the biggest thing for me tonight was just breathe, breathe through it all.

“It’s just crazy honestly. It’s a good start. Just gotta keep going.”