Moustakas excited to be home for debut
Southern Cal native gets first Major League start versus Halos
ANAHEIM -- When Mike Moustakas called his parents, who live not far from here, his first words were simple.
"I'm coming home, Dad," he said.
He sure was -- to play for the Kansas City Royals against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday night in the first Major League Baseball game of his life.
Moustakas could hardly wait.
"I'm about to live the dream right now," he said before the game. "It's a little overwhelming at times, but I'm happy that it's going to happen."
Moustakas plunged right in. Batting in the second inning in the sixth spot, Moustakas swung at Ervin Santana's first pitch and hit it solidly but at left fielder Vernon Wells. In the fourth inning, Moustakas walked on four pitches.
Then, in the sixth, he connected with his first big league hit -- a soft broken-bat liner off Santana that sailed into short right field for a single. Later in the inning, he scored his first run on Alcides Escobar's double.
Moustakas finished his first game, a 4-2 victory over the Angels, going 1-for-3 with a walk.
"I felt real comfortable from the first pitch on. It took me a couple innings just to get used to everything and once that happened, I felt great," Moustakas said. "I felt great in the box pretty much the whole night."
At third base, he handled his first chance, racing back into foul ground for Bobby Abreu's foul popup in the second inning. He also fielded two ground balls in the fifth inning, winging strong but tricky-to-handle throws to his buddy, first baseman Eric Hosmer.
"He's a good first baseman and I was just trying to keep him on his toes over there, keep him agile," Moustakas said kiddingly.
The moment that manager Mike Jirschele, manager of the Omaha Storm Chasers, called Moustakas into his office early Thursday evening to give him the news, to the first pitch on Friday night at Angel Stadium set off a tumultuous 24-hour period for the 22-year-old third baseman.
Moustakas got hugs and congrats from his manager and Triple-A teammates, grabbed his gear and belongings and drove from Omaha to Kansas City. Early Friday morning, he took a flight through Salt Lake City and caught up with the Royals at their Los Angeles-area hotel.
Then it was off to Angel Stadium for the Royals' special early-afternoon batting practice, a ritual on the first day in a city. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer started pitching and Moose starting swinging. Right on cue, the baseballs started leaving the ballpark.
"The first three of 'em went right out," Hosmer said. "He didn't even take one either. First one out of the gate, rolled out of bed."
Well, this is Hollywood after all. When the early work was done, the Moustakas production continued apace under director Mike Swanson, aka the Royals' vice president of communications and broadcasting. There were TV, radio and press interviews in an endless stream and Moustakas plunged into the melee eagerly.
"I'm just enjoying everything, soaking it all up," he said. "Come out here in this great California weather. Good to be back home. Just having fun. This is what I've dreamed about since I was a little kid, so I'm not going to let this experience slip past me."
Hosmer sat in with Moustakas for an interview with Joel Goldberg for the Royals Live! TV pregame show. ("He asked me how to get to the field and we ended up in somebody's dugout suite downstairs," Hosmer revealed.) Moustakas starred at Chatsworth High near LA, so the Angels' TV crew zeroed in for some questions. Then there was a Royals radio chat with Steve Stewart and then a session with about 15 assorted reporters.
Such a media overload could be daunting to some rookies, but the outgoing Moustakas relished every moment.
"I love it," he said. "I could be doing so many other different things in life other than talking to you guys and getting ready to play a baseball game. It's really a blessing to be able to come out here, put on this uniform and perform the game I love to play."
Moustakas was a one-man Kansas City Royals public relations blitz. He talked about how Jirschele helped his defense and Omaha hitting coach Tommy Gregg refined his swing, how well Royals general manager Dayton Moore had built up the farm system, how great his teammates were, how a championship was in sight.
"Hopefully this year. If not this year, then next year. If not next year, then the year after," he said. "We go out on a daily basis to try to win games and every year we're trying to win a championship. This year is our year and if it's not this year, then you know what, we'll get 'em next year."
Moustakas is a true believer.
This burst of energy really wasn't supposed to be unleashed on the Major League scene until next Friday when the Royals arrived in St. Louis for an Interleague series against the Cardinals. The idea, according to manager Ned Yost, was to cut from 13 to 12 pitchers and bring in Moustakas.
But after the Royals beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, on Thursday afternoon, GM Moore came into Yost's office and they got to talking and the Moustakas topic surfaced and how infielder Mike Aviles was struggling both at the plate and on defense.
"Dayton said, 'Well, can you go with 12 pitchers now?'" Yost recalled. "And I said, 'No, I don't think we need to. Let's go ahead and send Mikey [Aviles] out. If I'm going to pinch-hit for him and I'm going to defend for him, we need to get him straight -- he's too valuable.' And Dayton agreed. So we looked at each other and said, 'Well, let's do it.' I went up and got Aviles. It happened quick."
Aviles was dispatched to Omaha and Moustakas was promoted. In about 20 minutes, Moore and Yost had made an impromptu decision.
"We both knew it was the right thing to do," Yost said.
That's how, on Friday night with about 40 family and friends in the stadium and just a few miles from his home, Moustakas made his big league debut.
"This couldn't have worked out any better," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.