Meadows 'on top of the world' after making Tigers debut

August 22nd, 2023

DETROIT -- ’ mom couldn’t watch.

No, really, she couldn’t. Not after the Tigers outfielder had crushed a line-drive single for his first Major League hit Monday night against the Cubs while she had stepped away.

“My mom said it was hard for her to watch. She’s kind of a nervous wreck,” Meadows said after the 7-6 loss at Comerica Park.

So when the Tigers’ No. 10 prospect stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in a 5-2 game in the eighth inning, she had to look away.

Ultimately, it was Parker who was caught looking, albeit in a 2-2 count on a Michael Fulmer 98 mph four-seamer that looked like it was in the same spot off the plate as ball one. At Meadows’ previous stop with Triple-A Toledo, he could’ve tapped his helmet for a challenge, but there is no such option here.

An inning later, Meadows got another chance, this time with the potential tying run on first base and two outs in the ninth against former Tigers Minor League hurler Mark Leiter Jr. This time, Meadows didn’t wait, putting an aggressive swing on a pitch that Leiter tried to bury down and in. The resulting line drive brought fans to their feet, and it brought Meadows’ family and former high school teammates -- who were already on their feet -- to the edge.

“The last pitch cut a little bit, or we might have had a different story,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, “and you guys might have had a rewrite. It was a good swing in the end.”

The ball looked like it was headed to the same area as Meadows' single, but it carried directly to Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki for the final out.

“I kind of got jammed. It was a good pitch, cutter in,” Meadows said. “Just didn’t get the head out enough. Things happen, but at the end of the day, I’m very blessed to be out there with the guys.”

Meadows went 1-for-5 in his Major League debut, but he showed the combination of poise and athleticism that the Tigers were expecting when they made the long-anticipated call Sunday to bring him up.

“We decided to bring Parker up because we think he has a chance to help us in all facets of the game,” Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris said earlier Monday. “I think the glove and his legs were a little bit ahead of the bat for most of his career. I think that was still the case early on this year. For the first six weeks of the season, he got punched in the mouth at the plate at Triple-A. He had a rough go for the first 160 or so plate appearances. But the important thing is he didn't back down. He faced that adversity head-on. He made some real adjustments with the staff in Triple-A.

“I think if you look at his performance of the last 350 plate appearances or so since mid-May, I think the bat has answered a lot of those questions. I think defensively and on the bases, he was probably ready to play at this level several months ago, but we had some questions on the bat. Really proud of Parker for answering those questions. We think he has a chance to really compete in all facets of the game, and we're looking forward to seeing what it looks like.”

It’s one game, but at no point did Meadows look overmatched. His first play in Comerica Park’s spacious center field brought an initial misread, sending him in on a ball that was headed behind him until he retreated and reached up. He shared a laugh with fellow outfielders Riley Greene and Akil Baddoo about that.

“I have to get used to that third deck [of seats in the background] up there,” Meadows laughed.

He took a solid hack in his first at-bat in the second inning before striking out against Cubs rookie starter Javier Assad, then worked another good at-bat in the fourth inning before fouling out with a runner on second. His one bad count, ironically, was the 0-2 hole he slugged his way out of for his single, a 108.5 mph line drive into right field.

Meadows' high school buddies jumped around in the stands. His family hugged. His teammates in the Tigers' dugout, already enlivened by back-to-back home runs from Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter earlier in the inning, went wild again.

“Felt great, like I was on top of the world,” Meadows said. “Looked up at the big screen and saw my family and friends here. It was a pretty surreal moment.”