Baddoo HRs in 1st MLB AB ... on the 1st pitch

April 5th, 2021

DETROIT -- The bat flip looked like had hit home runs like this before. In reality, few have homered like this before, on his first pitch in the Majors, with his family watching from behind home plate at Comerica Park.

Wherever his career goes from here, Baddoo's starting point won’t be forgotten.

“I’m just living in the moment,” the Tigers outfielder said after Detroit’s 9-3 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. “I got a good pitch to hit, and I was able to hit it in front of my family and everyone.”

Baddoo slugged his way from Class A to the Major Leagues with five home runs this spring, creating anticipation of what he could do when the games counted. He wasn’t going to stand around waiting to find out once he stepped into the batter's box.

Baddoo's adjustment to regular-season pitching lasted one pitch. It was a third-inning fastball from Aaron Civale that Baddoo lined to the back of the Tigers' bullpen.

“Not a terrible pitch, but maybe not as aggressive as I could’ve been with that pitch,” said Civale, who shut down Detroit from there. “The swing was definitely aggressive. I think his family was there, so that’s a pretty cool moment. I remember my debut like it was yesterday. I’m sure he’ll remember that for the rest of his life.”

Baddoo's knock was the second and final Detroit hit during a largely forgettable loss to the Indians, but the home run won’t soon be forgotten -- not by Baddoo, his family, or the history books.

“You only have one first game in your career,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “These are going to get very routine for him when he starts playing more, and the newness of being a big leaguer is going to wear off a little bit, but that emotion that he felt is going to last him a lifetime.”

Baddoo is the ninth player in franchise history to homer in his first Major League at-bat, a feat last accomplished by Sergio Alcántara on Sept. 6, 2020. He’s the second Tiger to do it on his first pitch, joining George Vico on April 20, 1948.

Baddoo joins a short list of Major Leaguers to homer on their first big league pitch, last accomplished by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras on June 19, 2016.

No player on that list, though, arguably has a wilder story than Baddoo, a Rule 5 Draft pick out of the Twins' organization who forced his way onto Detroit’s Opening Day roster with his torrid Spring Training. Not only had Baddoo not played a game above Class A ball before Sunday, he hadn’t played a regular-season game since May 11, 2019, having missed the rest of that season with Tommy John surgery and 2020 due to the cancelled Minor League season.

The 22-year-old Baddoo has repeatedly shown a maturity beyond his years, on and off the field.

Baddoo nearly made his debut on Saturday; he was on deck to pinch-hit for when the eighth inning ended. Instead, Baddoo waited for his first start in left field, a game Hinch had planned out.

“I told him that he was going to start one of the games in the series,” Hinch said Sunday morning. “So after Opening Day, I always let the guys know what the next day’s plan is, and he wasn’t in that lineup, I said, ‘Let your family know you’re going to get your first start on Sunday.’”

Baddoo’s parents and his two younger brothers were seated behind home plate Sunday, having made the trip from Georgia. They barely had settled in when Baddoo connected with Civale’s fastball, sending it to the opposite field with a 103.7 mph exit velocity.

Baddoo's father, John, and mother, Akilah, leapt from their seats in celebration, throwing high-fives all around.

"I grabbed [my wife's] hand so we could throw him some real good energy, and then before we could blink an eye, there it was," John Baddoo said. "He didn't even give us a chance to be nervous over here."

Asked what he was thinking as he rounded the bases, Baddoo was at a loss.

“I literally can’t tell you,” he said. “I don’t know. I was just so happy that I was able to put a good swing on the ball and hit a home run.”

Baddoo pointed to his family as he crossed home plate. He was anticipating the silent treatment from teammates as he returned to the dugout, but instead, he was mobbed.

“First pitch of his career is a backside home run. I mean, that’s incredible,” said Tigers starter , who fanned four and allowed two runs during his 5 1/3-inning debut. “I”m happy for him. That was awesome. That was a really cool moment to be a part of.”