Pasquantino 'humbled' by ovation in MLB debut

Royals' No. 3 prospect goes 0-for-4 as DH, but vows to give KC fans reason to cheer

June 29th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- As Vinnie Pasquantino strolled to the plate in the bottom of the second inning on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, the crowd began to cheer, loudly, and most of the 19,593 announced fans stood on their feet to welcome him to the Major Leagues.

From an 11th-round and under-the-radar pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, to becoming a can’t-miss prospect, to debuting in the big leagues at 24 years old, Pasquantino couldn’t quite believe the standing ovation greeting him in his first big league plate appearance.

“I’m really humbled by the city of Kansas City and of the reaction that they gave in my first at-bat,” Pasquantino said. “I haven’t felt anything like that in my entire life. I just want to say thank you to all the people that came out tonight. I saw an Italian flag in the stands, I saw a sign that said, ‘It’s Pasquantino Time,’ or something like that. From a personal side, that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Royals manager Mike Matheny made sure to stop Pasquantino as the game continued and emphasized the uniqueness of that moment. Pasquantino’s response is everything Royals fans need to know about the slugging first baseman/designated hitter who George Brett nicknamed the Italian Nightmare in Spring Training this year.

“Now, I got to make them stand up for a reason,” Matheny recalled Pasquantino saying.

Pasquantino, ranked as the club’s No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, went 0-for-4 as the designated hitter in the Royals’ 8-3 loss to the Rangers, who are now on the verge of a three-game series sweep ahead of Wednesday’s matinee finale. He was first-pitch swinging in his opening at-bat against Jon Gray, ripping a 97 mph fastball 106 mph up the infield -- and into a double play. Pasquantino grounded out in the fourth and his final two at-bats resulted in flyouts.

Pasquantino is articulate and witty with his words, quick to joke and just as quick to compete, assuring those around him that his goal is to win -- and win a lot. His first comments to reporters surrounding his locker postgame displayed as much.

“There’s a lot of emotions that went on with it,” Pasquantino said. “Right now, my current emotion is frustration because we lost. That’s a little disappointing. Obviously from a personal side, it was really a monumental night for me. … I obviously want to play better. Knocked a few things off my selfish bucket list tonight.

“Yesterday, I was at a game, today I played in one. Tomorrow, I’d like to get my first win as a player. That’ll be the coolest thing for me. Maybe get on base once or twice or do something productive to help the team.”

It’s rare to see a newcomer reach the Majors and not struggle, but the Royals by and large view Pasquantino’s bat as an upgrade to this lineup. Right now, and in the future, surrounded by the pieces that are arriving in Kansas City. Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez and Kyle Isbel were all in the lineup on Tuesday, with Isbel rocketing his first home run of the season to right-center field.

Many moments from his debut will stick with Pasquantino. When Royals players and trainers entered the dugout ahead of their pregame stretch, they let Pasquantino go out onto the field first. Several fans noticed No. 9 appearing from the dugout and cheered. He walked out to shallow right field and stood by himself for a moment, looking around and taking it in before getting to work.

After the stretch, Pasquantino met his dad, Dennis, and niece at the staircase just beyond the dugout suites in right-field foul territory. Dennis got to see his son in a big league uniform for the first time. A little over 24 hours earlier, Vinnie had a hard time convincing Dennis that he was actually being promoted.

“He did not believe me,” Pasquantino said on Monday afternoon, recalling the phone call. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m going up. I’m going to the big leagues.’ He said, ‘Yeah, OK.’ I said, ‘No, I’m really not kidding. I’m going.’ … My [Triple-A Omaha] manager got on the phone and said, ‘Dennis, this is Scott Thorman, he’s really going.’”

As the game went on, Pasquantino settled in. He took a few more pitches in his following at-bats. He zeroed in on the game, while also taking some time to peek around the stands and see the support. It’s not something he takes lightly.

The Royals (26-47) are 21 games under .500. Pasquantino wants to help improve those numbers.

“I’ve been very open about how I feel about draft position and prospect rankings, and things like that,” Pasquantino said. “Things like that are typically reserved for the Bobby Witts of the world, not the Vinnie Pasquantinos. … I hope to earn the support of the fans now. They’ve seen from afar what I think I’m capable of and what they think I’m capable of, but now I want to do it in front of them.

“I want to start putting some wins on the scoreboard and helping this team do whatever we can to score more runs than the other team.”