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Rising Stars Shine Bright As They Notch First Hit Of Their Career

📸 Photo Credit: Toronto Blue Jays

NEW YORK — It all begins somewhere.

Every year, a seed sprouts and roots itself within the big leagues. The goal is to manifest into a player who can capture the attention of millions and pave a way to help their team reach the ultimate goal — to win a World Series championship.

With extended 30-man rosters implemented at the beginning of a shortened season, young men have been asked to suit up and prepare for a 60-game sprint. Two highly anticipated rookies have reached the surface of their dreams, as they’re called by their respected managers to get the job done. 

July 28 is a date that will forever be etched in the mind of Santiago, Dominican Republic native Santiago Espinal. On Tuesday night, Santiago dunked a 2-0 four-seam fastball from Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sam Freeman into left field for his first major league hit. 

In the Nationals Park visiting dugout, a roar could be heard from teammates as Espinal sprinted up the first base line. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and other players were found on the top step of the dugout, waving at Emilio Bonifácio to retrieve the rookie’s first hit souvenir. Nationals first baseman and 15-year veteran Howie Kendrick flashed a congratulatory smile as Espinal sunk in the momentous feat. 

As Espinal stepped onto the infield and into the batter’s box, the memory of his late mother  — who passed away from cancer in 2019 — resonated with the 25-year-old. His first hit, a tribute to his momma.  

It all started when Espinal’s dream of playing major league baseball crept closer to reality when he was drafted by the Boston Red Soxs in the 10th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Two years after getting the call, Espinal was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in June 2018 in exchange for left fielder Steve Pearce. After playing the 2019 season in the minors with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Buffalo Bison, Espinal completed his minor league stint going .287/.347/.393. 

241 miles away from Nationals Park, another star patiently waited to shine in a major league batter’s box at Citi Field. New York Mets shortstop Andrés Giménez’s wait finally came to an end when manager Luis Roja penciled the 25-year-old into the Mets starting lineup Wednesday night against the Boston Red Sox.

Giménez — who is from Barquisimeto, Venezuela — stepped up to the plate against Red Sox right handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and laced a single passed shortstop Tzu-Lei Lin and into left field for his first major league hit. The moment was celebrated with a beaming smile and an electric fist bump, as teammates cheered from the dugout and demanded the ball that will forever remain a keepsake for Giménez. 

While jitters continued to flare after notching his first hit, Giménez was picked-off at first base by Eovaldi. Despite the rookie error, he returned to his third at-bat of the night and lined his first career triple towards the center field wall and added a RBI to his list of firsts. 

“This season’s kind of been a tough mountain to climb, not only for me, but the rest of the team,” Giménez said after the game. “But I’m here to have the opportunity, so I thank God for that and I’m just here to help the team win.”

Giménez showcased both his impressive bat and speedy baserunning skills, on top of his athletic abilities at shortstop. MLB Pipeline named the rookie a top-100 MLB prospect sitting at No. 84. While in the Arizona Fall League, Giménez led the league with a .371 average and a .999 OPS when in Scottsdale.

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