Javier Baez Watch officially came to an end Tuesday night in Colorado. The former Smokies infielder was finally promoted to the Big Leagues and did not disappoint in his Major League Baseball debut for the Chicago Cubs, helping lead the club to a 6-5 extra-innings victory over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
The Cubs announced Monday he would join the team in Colorado for their road series against the Rockies, and got the start on Tuesday evening at second base and batting second in the order, right behind fellow 2013 Smokies infielder Arismendy Alcantara. Baez struggled early on through his first five at bats, striking out three times, in addition to a groundout and impressive lineout that was stung, but hit right at Colorado’s right fielder.
Known for his flair for the dramatic during his time in Tennessee, Baez did not disappoint in the 12th inning, lifting the first pitch he saw over the right field wall to break a 5-5 tie for not just his first Major League hit, but also his first Major League home run. The longball would prove to be the game-winning hit as the Cubs went on to shut down the Rockies in the bottom of the frame to preserve the victory. The blast marked the first time in the Cubs’ long franchise history a player hit an extra-inning home run in his Major League debut.
Despite recording just that one hit over his six at bats, Baez impressed by playing great defense, including helping turn two double plays off feeds from shortstop Starlin Castro, and also made a loud final out with a bases loaded opportunity in the seventh inning. Even a foul ball back to the screen made Cubs broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies proclaim it was “one of the most impressive foul balls I have ever seen.”
In 54 games during his time in Kodak last season, the Jacksonville, Florida native left a lasting legacy, hitting .294 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI en route to being named a Southern League Postseason All-Star, and help lead the Smokies into postseason play. Now, after what surely seemed like a long wait to the Cubs faithful, Baez looks to leave another legacy in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. If last night’s performance is any indication, Northsiders are certain to see many more lasting memories from the 21-year-old as the team continues to build stronger and climb out of the depths.