PITTSBURGH — As far as big debuts go, Austin Meadows’ just didn’t rate.
Meadows, the Pirates top hitting prospect and top draft pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, made his MLB debut at PNC Park on Friday in the Pirates’ 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres.
There was the usual fanfare of the debut of a top prospect, with triple the usual press presence and about 5,000 walk-up tickets sold. But unlike that of an Andrew McCutchen or even Jameson Taillon, there just wasn’t the same feel regarding Meadows.
It probably has something to do with the fact that the Pirates are 26-18 and entered the day in first place in the NL Central. The team is playing very well, and if not for Starling Marte’s oblique injury, they really wouldn’t need Meadows.
Meadows also hasn’t been playing all that well in Triple-A this season. He left Indianapolis with a .733 OPS and its fair to wonder how long his stay in Pittsburgh will be and if he’s going to get regular opportunities while he’s here. Reporters did just that during manager Clint Hurdle’s pregame news conference and he wasn’t having anything of it.
“Oh my gosh, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here,” Hurdle said. “We really are. I don’t have answer for that.”
Hurdle said that his focus has been on telling Meadows to “embrace the day” and enjoy his first taste of the big leagues.
That’s probably easier said than done. After all, it wouldn’t be much of debut to go 0 for 4, but Meadows didn’t have long to wait to get his first hit. He singled in his second at-bat, stole second and singled again later to finish 2 for 4.
High expectations — and meeting them — aren’t exactly something new to Meadows, who has been rated as one the Pirates’ top prospects since he was a teenager.
“I’ve always handled expectations pretty well,” Meadows said. “I think, for me, playing up when I was younger, playing up at different levels, playing with older guys, just being that guy, going out there and leading by example, it’s kind of who I am.”
So, the pressure of being in the majors isn’t really a big deal to Meadows and his debut wasn’t a huge deal to the rest of the Pirates, what’s the big deal? Well, as Hurdle said, it’s all about the day — a day that Meadows will probably remember for a very long time.
With that in mind, here’s some no-pressure questions for Meadows about his first MLB game:
What did you have for breakfast?
“I had Pamela’s Diner. Nice omelette with the family.”
What was your favorite moment before the game?
“Coming down to the tunnel to go into the (dugout), hitting the sign up there. That’s probably the biggest thing. Going through the tunnel and then seeing the stadium. Everything leading up to the start of the game.”
Why uniform No. 17?
“I don’t know, they gave it to me. I was 17 in Spring Training. That’s probably the reason. I was 15 (in Indianapolis).”
Why “Bittersweet Symphony” as a walk-up song?
“It was also my walk-up song in Indy. I can’t really decide when it comes to walk-outs, when it comes to someone actually singing a song, so I just kind of go with the symphony and stuff like that. The instrumental part. Stick with that.”
Who will get your first-hit baseball?
“My parents, for sure. To mom and dad. I can’t pick.”
Did you have a welcome-to-the-majors moment?
“Probably throwing the ball to the fans after (warming up in the) first or second.(Gregory) Polanco gave me the ball and told me to throw it up there. I look in to the crowd and everybody was out there and I thought, ‘Wow. This is crazy.’”
Whether or not Meadows is a regular in the lineup, how long he stays in Pittsburgh and how much his contributions will mean to the team will be decided in the coming days and months.
The fact that, even after a loss, over-analysis of Meadows’ one game isn’t required and that the Pirates’ season isn’t hinging on his performance already goes a long way to showing what kind of place the team is in. If Meadows is also in a good place, he may be able to help them, too.