1,159 games later, Westbrook has 'full-circle moment'

June 6th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BOSTON -- All those long bus rides. The countless hours he wondered if the career he had chosen would give him the ultimate payoff.

For , it all became worth it with one flick of his wrists on Wednesday afternoon when he lined a clean single to left field for his first career hit on a day his Red Sox shut out the Braves, 9-0, at Fenway Park.

The 28-year-old Westbrook was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fifth round of the 2013 Draft.

It took nearly 11 years, but Westbrook finally found that patch of grass to give him his first knock as a Major Leaguer. And no matter what happens from here, nobody can take that away from him.

This, after Westbrook played 1,159 games and took 4,748 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues for five organizations.

Talk about perseverance for a player who stands just 5-foot-7 but was dubbed “Barrel man” in the Minor Leagues for his ability to barrel up the baseball.

“It's indescribable just to see the ball hit the grass and know [I had a hit],” said Westbrook. “You’re in the Minor Leagues so long. What if I go up there [and don’t get a hit]? You never know how things will happen. So it was nice to get it out of the way for sure, and be able to just keep looking forward.”

The Fenway fans responded with a loud ovation as the scoreboard in center field noted it was Westbrook’s first hit.

Westbrook added more poignancy to an already great moment when asked what he was going to do with the milestone baseball.

“Just gave it to my mom,” said Westbrook. “She was battling breast cancer the past five months or so, and she's in remission now, just finished radiation last week. So I think she deserves that ball for so many reasons. I'd be here all day, talking to you guys about all the reasons. So she's got it.”

Westbrook was born in Springfield, Mass., and the Red Sox were the first team he rooted for. He moved to Arizona when he was 10 years old, but his grandfather still lives in Springfield and was in the stands at Fenway for the hit on Wednesday.

“In the offseason when they reached out, it felt like a full-circle moment for sure,” said Westbrook. “Obviously you hope that you can do it and I have family close by. It’s storybook, it really is. I couldn’t be happier.”

This feel-good story has been going on since Sunday, when Westbrook got his first callup to the Majors and drew a walk as a pinch-hitter to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth as the Red Sox tried for a walk-off win against the Tigers in an eventual 10-inning loss.

For years, Westbrook waited for his opportunity. He finally got it when injuries mounted for the Red Sox last weekend.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Westbrook will start against lefties, and he has the versatility to play infield and outfield.

The path that Westbrook has traveled is one that everyone on the Red Sox appreciates.

“Everything we do here every day is to win games. But stuff like that is gratifying. It’s fun,” Cora said. “He’s a good player. He’s going to put good together good at-bats.”

The fact Westbrook’s big moment happened during an afternoon getaway day figured to make it more memorable. This was Westbrook’s first charter flight and he looked forward to experiencing life in a Major League-caliber hotel room.

“I'm pumped,” Westbrook said. “I’m going to sleep good tonight. I might take a bath and use the robe if they have one at the hotel. I'm excited to experience the whole thing with my wife and baby, so it's nice just seeing the finer things in life. We don't live lavishly. My wife still works, so it'll be a cool thing.”