O'Hearn punctuates 'homecoming' with HR

July 21st, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- was born in Florida and moved to Texas when he was about 14 years old, but that hasn’t stopped the Royals’ trip to the Brewers’ city from feeling like a homecoming for the fourth-year utility man.

“My dad grew up here, and my dad's side of the family is here,” O’Hearn said Tuesday. “He was really the only one to leave, so they're all still here. I never lived in Milwaukee, but we came up here all the time to see the family, so it's kind of like a second home.”

O’Hearn was on the trip when Kansas City played in Milwaukee in September, but because of restrictions due to the pandemic, nobody from his family was in the stands. This time around, O’Hearn said he had about 20 family members among the 20,140 fans in attendance for Tuesday's 5-2 win against the Brewers. He wasn’t in the starting lineup, but he was in right field during batting practice and could hear them shouting for him from the seats.

“I think last year was my first trip here, obviously no fans, so they were all bummed out that they couldn't see me,” O’Hearn said. “We couldn't even do anything, I couldn't go see them after the game or anything, either. This has been marked on the calendar for a while.”

Being that the game was in a National League ballpark, Royals starting pitcher was hitting in the nine-hole, and O’Hearn kept an eye out any time the bottom of the order was due up.

When it was Minor’s turn to hit in the top of the seventh with on first, Kansas City manager Mike Matheny chose O’Hearn to go to the plate instead.

“[O'Hearn is] dangerous,” Matheny said. “We know that and like him in those situations to come in, and he's a threat. There's no doubt. Whether he's in the starting lineup or coming in in a pinch-hit opportunity, he's got that kind of power to go anywhere and leave any part of the ballpark.”

O’Hearn is more than familiar with American Family Field, and he said he still remembers coming to the stadium after it first opened as Miller Park in 2001. Even after taking batting practice before Tuesday’s game, the feeling that the park was a good place to hit returned to him.

After working a 2-1 count against Brewers reliever Hunter Strickland, O’Hearn took one swing and launched the ball to straightaway center field off the bottom of the scoreboard for a massive two-run shot.

Following what proved to be the game-winning home run in the 5-2 victory, O’Hearn looked into the stands, saw his family and picked out his dad, who was celebrating with a huge smile across his face.

“Kind of full circle to come back and hit a big homer here in front of the family,” he said.

and played their first games in Triple-A Omaha on Tuesday, a 6-4 loss to St. Paul. In their first at-bats since leaving Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Witt singled to center and Pratto worked a walk. Witt finished the game 2-for-6 with a run scored, and Pratto went 1-for-3 with a run scored and two free passes.

“Seeing them step right in and have some success yesterday, both Nick and Bobby, it looked like they took some very good at-bats,” Matheny said Wednesday. “Those are always things that you're hoping for, where they can make that next step and start to make the adjustments. Now this next level is going to adjust to them, and how do they respond?”

• Matheny said Wednesday that, following Thursday's off-day, and would start Friday and Saturday, respectively, against Detroit. Sunday’s starter is still up in the air.