In a wet and slightly disappointing double-header on Tuesday, Wil Myers made his major league debut with the Rays at Fenway Park. Going 1-for-7 for the day, Myers’ debut was not quite as exciting as we all hoped it would be. However, fans were still thrilled to see the Rays’ top prospect in the lineup, as people were abuzz on Twitter and some fans even drove to Boston to witness Myers’ highly anticipated debut. Just as all eyes were on Myers Tuesday, let’s take a look back at other Rays positions players’ debuts that had everyone talking.
Carl Crawford: At 20 years old, Carl Crawford made his debut as the youngest D-Rays rookie on July 20, 2002. (B.J. Upton broke that record when he debuted on August 2, 2004, at the age of 19.) Already gaining attention for his speed and being a strong player both offensively and deffensively, Crawford was heating up Triple A Durham, giving fans hope that he would one day bolster a struggling D-Rays offense. GM Chuck LaMar understood what kind of help the young left fielder, who had recently played in the July All-Star Futures Game, would bring the D-Rays, prompting him to call up Crawford. During his debut, Crawford went 1-for-4 with two RBIs in the D-Rays’ 10-12 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto. Crawford quickly won people over with his speed and would go on to cement himself as the Rays’ greatest outfielder.
Rocco Baldelli: The centerfielder’s big league debut on March 31, 2003, was very special, as he became the D-Rays’ first rookie to debut on Opening Day. After leading the team in RBIs and homeruns at one point during spring training, there was no question that the D-Rays were ready for Rocco Baldelli to join them permanently. As a first round pick in 2000 and Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2002, fans were excited to witness the top prospect’s debut against the Boston Red Sox. Baldelli went 1-for-4 with a double and one strikeout for the day in the D-Rays’ 6-4 win at Tropicana Field. He also set a rookie record for the D-Rays when he had 40 hits in April. Baldelli went on to emerge as a star for the D-Rays, as heads turned to watch him dominate in the outfield with Carl Crawford. Although he finished in third place for 2003 Rookie of the Year, Baldelli’s rookie year offered the promise that he would shine for the D-Rays for years to come.
Evan Longoria: After spending spring training with the Rays in 2008, everyone expected the 2006 first-round pick to make his debut with the Rays on Opening Day. However, the Rays sent Evan Longoria back down to Triple A Durham at the end of camp, only to call him up ten days into the season after third baseman Willy Aybar was placed on the disabled list. With everyone excited to see the highly touted rookie debut on April 12, 2008, Longoria received a loud applause from the fans at Tropicana Field as he approached the plate for the first time. Going 1-for-4 with a RBI single and a walk, the day was certainly magical for both Longoria and Rays fans, ushering in a new era for the Rays. Longoria and the Rays went on to make their first postseason debut that season, helping to solidify Longoria’s impact on the team, while also later being named Rookie of the Year.
Desmond Jennings: After making his actual big league debut with the Rays in 2010, Desmond Jennings hit only .190 in 21 at bats with Tampa Bay that season. Jennings continued to capture the attention of both the Rays and their fans as he lit up the field in Triple A Durham every night. With the Rays’ defense lacking and Jennings hitting .275 with 12 homers and 68 runs, they called the left fielder up to make his 2011 debut on July 23. It did not take Jennings long at all to show the Rays that he was ready to hit with the big leaguers, as he went 2-for-3 with a double, triple, two runs, one RBI, and two walks that night. In his spectacular debut, Jennings covered all the bases, literally, also stealing a base during the game. Although Jennings’ debut in 2010 was less dazzling, he quickly made his presence known in 2011, as the Rays kept him in their lineup for the remainder of the season. Jennings also became compared to former left fielder Carl Crawford and remains a key component in the Rays’ defense.
With these players and many others capturing the attention of Rays fans during their debuts, these rookies offered the promise of being the next star player that could help lead the Rays to many future victories. Best of luck to Wil Myers as he looks to build a successful career with the Rays.