Carlos Mendoza can still remember the sound snapping him to attention, squinting through the sunlight at the Yankees’ Dominican academy in Boca Chica.
It was January 2020, and the Bombers’ bench coach had accompanied manager Aaron Boone on a campus visit, intended to build relationships with players like Gary Sánchez and Miguel Andújar -- both of whom were also taking note of the easygoing teenager forcefully spraying baseballs around the diamond.
“The way the ball came off the bat,” Mendoza said, when asked what he remembered most. “Miggy and Gary were guys with big league experience, and Jasson [Domínguez] was 16 at the time. He didn’t miss a bit. He was hitting the ball out of the ballpark with ease, both sides of the field, both sides of the plate. I was like, ‘Wow, this is real.’”
Even then, “The Martian” had a knack for making a good first impression, just as he did last week in Houston, when he homered off Justin Verlander with his first big league swing.
Boone recalls scouting the switch-hitting center fielder during that visit to the Dominican, observing a stout, muscular figure who blasted BP fastballs and glided to snare fly balls.
“Right then, he got your attention, like, ‘Man, this is a 16-year-old kid,’” Boone said. “You see the skill set right in front of you, but he had that easy smile, handled himself real well. I can’t say I’m surprised [that he’s in the Majors]. That was four years ago. When I was 20, I was kicking the ball around as a sophomore at USC, a long way away from the big leagues.”
Even at that early stage, Domínguez was no stranger to hype. He’d been compared to the likes of Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout before setting pen to paper on his first professional contract, the one that included a $5.1 million signing bonus from the Yankees.
An awestruck observer in the Dominican -- the exact identity remains a mystery -- had commented on Domínguez’s otherworldly skills by calling him “El Marciano,” a nickname that Domínguez has embraced. Mendoza said that Domínguez’s increasing maturity is the biggest difference from the player he saw in 2020.
“His presence in the locker room, his interactions and conversations,” Mendoza said. “His English is very good. Credit to the player development people, because that’s a priority for him. When I first met him, it was zero; I remember translating every conversation for Boonie. Now they can talk to each other. That sticks out to me, that he knows how important it is. Little things like that go a long way.”
When he took the field for his first Yankees home game on Tuesday, Domínguez pointed skyward like E.T., acknowledging chants from the Bleacher Creatures. Whether it’s a round of BP at a sunbaked field in the Dominican or a game under the bright lights in the Bronx, no moment seems too big for Domínguez.
“From my point of view, it’s the same baseball,” Domínguez said. “Of course, there are many differences. You have so many more fans in the stands and a lot of excitement. I think after the first couple of days, I’ve been able to bring down the excitement and enjoy it more.”