Welcome to the show, Heston Kjerstad | READER COMMENTARY

Baltimore Orioles' Heston Kjerstad heads to the dugout after striking out while pinch hitting in his Major League Baseball debut in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Baltimore. The Rays won 4-3. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

At the Orioles-Rays game last Thursday night, I witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime baseball moment (“Orioles’ Heston Kjerstad ‘stoked, excited, relieved’ to be called up, makes MLB debut; Ryan Mountcastle won’t go on IL,” Sept. 14).

Late in the game, with the O’s one run down, a small cheer went up when manager Brandon Hyde sent a pinch hitter to the plate. Sensing a big chance, I checked the scoreboard for the batter’s name and stats and what I saw was a new face and a slate full of zeros: games, at-bats, hits, runs, RBIs — all of it — on both sides of all the decimal points right across the board. This once-in-a-lifetime moment was not mine. It was Heston Kjerstad’s, his first at-bat, his major league debut.


And what a tap! I can imagine Hyde’s command: “We’re one run down, Kjerstad. Get in there. Yerrup!”

I’m sitting in the upper deck of Oriole Park at Camden Yards with five of my poker buddies. I’m looking straight down across home plate to third base and on out into left, the yellow foul pole absolutely plumb with the baseline. I tell my seatmates to check it out. But it’s not a long stand-in. A handful of pitches, no crack of the bat, no change of occupancy on the bases and certainly the score doesn’t change either. The at-bat ends with a swing and a miss and up there in baseball’s cloud, some electrons whiz about and a couple of zeros change to ones.


The moment is over but a career just began. It is commonly understood that it’s hard to get a hit in baseball. As others have noted, the very best fail to do it about 70% of the time. No sweat, Kjerstad, I think. If you can’t score your first big league hit on your first big league at-bat, maybe the next best thing is to score your first big-league strikeout. Thousands — nay, millions — of wishful boys and hopeful young men over many decades have never had the opportunity for even the chance to swing for real against a big league pitcher, not even once. (Editor’s note: Kjerstad went on to hit a home run in the second games of his career a day later: “Orioles’ Heston Kjerstad hits first MLB home run to break up Rays’ no-hit bid: ‘That was surreal,’” Sept. 15).

Just remember, Kjerstad: That was a big-league swing. The final score: O’s 3, Rays 4. For me, it was a late season loss, but for Heston Kjerstad, it was Opening Day. Like some of the T-shirts down on Eutaw Street said on my way out, “Welcome to the Show.”

— William O. Miles, Towson

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