Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pitcher Milone hits home run on first pitch he sees in majors

The reaction Washington Nationals pitcher Tom Milone received during his memorable major league debut might have been even cooler than what he did to prompt it.

And what he did was awesome.

Milone swung at the first pitch he saw from Mets righty Dillon Gee, knocking it over the right-field fence and to the back of the home team's bullpen at Nationals Park on Saturday night. The three-run homer gave the Nats a big lead on New York in the second inning and brought down the house ? from the fans in the stands, to the announcers, to Washington's relief corps.

Here are couple of more video angles on the homer, along with the TV call and the demand for an encore by the fans.

What a couple of great home run calls, especially by Nats radio guy Charlie Slowes, whose voice cracked. Only eight pitchers in history have hit home runs on the first pitch they saw, STATS LLC and the SABR Home Run Log report. Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals did it previously in 2006.

The rookie pitcher, who promised himself in the on-deck circle that he would swing at a fastball if thrown one, said the moment seemed to good to be true:

"When I was running down the first-base line, it was almost like I was dreaming," Milone said. "It was almost like I didn't feel it come off the bat. It felt that good.

"I wasn't really sure it was a home run ? yet. But once it kept traveling in the air, I kind of knew it. It was definitely a good feeling."

The reaction from Nats' relievers ? who jumped for joy, screamed with excitement and gave each other high-fives ? was particularly neat in the second inning of a September game between teams long out of the pennant race.

Left-hander Sean Burnett managed to retrieve the ball amid the jubilant chaos.

"The bullpen lost it. As soon as he hit it, we knew it was gone," Burnett said. "There is not a better feeling in the world for a pitcher than to hit a home run. To see the first pitch in the big leagues is something special. It's part of a special night for him. That's pretty incredible."

Only baseball can give that man the kind of joy he has right there!

Encore, encore! Milone obliged and gave the fans a curtain call. That's an admiring Rick Ankiel on the left, and Pudge Rodriguez in the foreground.

After a good beginning on the mound, Milone struggled the next time through the Mets' batting order and he was out of the game by the fifth inning. But the Nationals came back to win in the ninth on a two-run bloop single by Ryan Zimmerman, making it easier to continue the general goodwill toward Milone.

Milone's minor-league pitching numbers were outstanding, particularly his strikeout-to-walk ratio ? 465 to 84 in 516 innings. He doesn't throw hard, but you don't necessarily have to for success. He also hit .346 at Triple-A, with a double in 33 plate appearances. No homers, though. Until this one.

Adam Kilgore wrote a killer game story in the Washington Post that frames Saturday's events around how the Nationals found Milone ? which was by accident when they were scouting someone else. Milone's auspicious big league debut, after being a 10th-round pick in 2008, made those scouts ? who since have become GM Mike Rizzo and scouting director Kris Kline ? giddy with pride.

"When the later-drafted guys get there," said Kline, now the Nationals' scouting director, "it's even more rewarding."

Kilgore has more in a blog post. Do you see how happy you've made people, Tom Milone? Do you see?!

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