Drew Maggi’s long road to the major leagues culminated in his first career at-bat Wednesday night.
The 33-year-old infielder, who had played 1,155 games across 13 minor league seasons before getting called up by the Pirates earlier this week, appeared as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, striking out in his lone at bat as Pittsburgh beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-1 at PNC Park.
Maggi pinch hit for Andrew McCutchen with one out in the eighth inning and received a standing ovation from teammates in the Pirates dugout and the sparse crowd at the ballpark. He pulled the first pitch he saw from Alex Vesia foul, then got into an 0-2 hole after being called for a pitch clock violation by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. Maggi fouled another off and then took a ball before striking out swinging on a Vesia slider.
A moment he’ll never forget. pic.twitter.com/DRMoWbsc2W
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 27, 2023
“It’s the best strikeout I ever had,” Maggi said with a smile.
Asked on the field after the game how the night felt, Maggi added: “I really can’t (put it into words). I can’t explain how I was feeling in the (batter’s) box. I didn’t even know what to do. You guys were cheering me on. I don’t know, I never expected that. Through the journey, I thought I’d make my debut and it would be a normal at bat. Obviously special, but the crowd cheering my name, I got my parents here, my three brothers, a sister back at home. I mean, this is unbelievable. Thank you, everybody.”
Maggi has a career .254 average with 978 hits, 45 home runs, 354 RBIs and 222 stolen bases in the minors since being drafted out of Arizona State by the Pirates in the 15th round (No. 447 overall) in 2010. Wednesday marked 12 years, 10 months and 18 days since he was selected.
The Pirates called him up over the weekend from Double-A Altoona — video of him being told of the callup showed the heartfelt moment — when outfielder Bryan Reynolds was placed on the bereavement list. Manager Derek Shelton didn’t find a spot to use Maggi during his first two games in Pittsburgh, and Maggi was fearful of a repeat of 2019, when he was called up by the Minnesota Twins for a few days but didn’t appear in a game.
“I saw my dad crying. I don’t think I ever saw him cry before. All those years, I wondered what I would say to my parents if that moment ever were to come. They’ve been right there with me. Hearing those words made it all worthwhile. I know the last 13 years have not been wasted.”
Drew Maggi on long-awaited MLB debut
Shelton, who was the Twins’ bench coach then, was thrilled that he was able to get Maggi in this time around.
“That was cool. That was really cool,” Shelton said. “I mean to be able to, as long as I’ve known him, to be able to be the person that was telling him (to pinch-hit) was just really cool.”
Maggi said he never had any regrets for spending more than a decade in the minors. However, he admitted Wednesday’s at-bat made all those years of chasing his dream worth it.
“I love baseball,” Maggi said. “I was grinding for 13 years but I was doing what I loved. The ultimate goal is the big leagues. Just kind of getting here, my name is in history. I put on a big league uniform, and I shared the field with the world’s greatest players.”
Maggi spent a few moments after the game visiting with family along the box seat railing. The magnitude of the moment hit him once he saw his parents, who had made the trip from Phoenix, and other family members.
“There were a lot of, ‘I love you. We’re proud of you. You did it!'” Maggi said. “I saw my dad crying. I don’t think I ever saw him cry before. All those years, I wondered what I would say to my parents if that moment ever were to come. They’ve been right there with me. Hearing those words made it all worthwhile. I know the last 13 years have not been wasted.”