Alex Call Had a Cup of Coffee in Cleveland

© David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Call’s first cup of big-league coffee came last month with the Cleveland Guardians. A 27-year-old outfielder who had spent his first three professional seasons in the Chicago White Sox system, Call logged two hits and four walks in 16 plate appearances before being returned to Triple-A Columbus on August 1. Six days later, the 2016 third-round pick out of Ball State University was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Washington Nationals.

Call’s first big-league plate appearances came as a pinch hitter on July 11, one day after learning that he was getting called up. The pitcher on the mound was one of his former minor-league teammates in the White Sox system. Eleven days and six at-bats later, Call recorded his first hit in the majors. It came off the same pitcher.

Call, currently playing for Triple-A Rochester, discussed his milestone moments when the Guardians visited Fenway Park in late July.


On learning that he was getting his first big-league call-up

“It was a Sunday game and I was actually off that day. I’d signed up to do the fun run afterwards — we do those on Sundays in Columbus — and when that was over, Andy Tracy, our manager, told me, ‘Hey, we’ve got a gift card for you. Thanks for doing that for the kids.’ I was like, ‘Sweet. I’ll take a gift card.’ He rustled around some papers in his office, then looked up and said, ‘Well, I can’t find it, but I don’t think you’ll need it in Cleveland. You’re going to The Show.’ After that, I called my family.

“The team was playing in Cleveland the next day, against the White Sox, so I packed up some of the stuff from my apartment and got on the road. I did my best to have a normal night’s rest. There was a lot of pin-balling around — different things here and there — but it was an amazing experience to finally be in the big leagues and all that comes with it. There were a lot of names to know, people to get to know.”

On keeping his faith while toiling in the minors

“I’d been in the minor leagues for seven years. The COVID year was tough; I didn’t get to play at all. I had a couple of injuries early in my career and when I came back from them, I didn’t play very well. But I kept going. I kept working. I always believed deep down that I could do it, that I was a major league player — especially when I’d see other guys that I’ve played with and they were in the big leagues. It would be like, ‘Man, I know I can do it. I know that there’s a spot for me. All I need to do is stay in my lane and keep doing what I do.’

“At the same time, you never know. You never know what everybody’s plan is for you and how everybody sees you. You don’t always get that feedback. All you can do is just continue to play your best and see where it all takes you.”

On facing former teammate Tanner Banks in his first big-league game

“Banks was their only lefty, and Tito [Terry Francona] told me before the game that if we got a lead I was going to in and play right for Nolan Jones. It was the seventh inning, we had a lead, here came the lefty, and I got to pinch-hit. It played out just like I thought it would.

“I’d spent a lot of time in the minor leagues with the White Sox, and Tanner had actually been one of my roommates. Dylan Cease, Matt Foster, Jimmy Lambert, Gavin Sheets… I’d played with all of those guys. So it was fun just to be able to play against them. Facing Tanner… I mean, I was super happy for him that he got to make his debut this year. I remember giving him a little smile when I was in the box. Seby [Zavala] was catching, too. I love Sevy. I’d played with him a lot. Basically, it was friendly confines in a competitive game.”

On his first plate appearance

“I was expecting him to attack me. My approach was basically to get a pitch to hit and hit a line drive up the middle. That’s what I was thinking. Knowing him as a pitcher helped make me more comfortable, too. Tanner always attacks the zone, so I was ready.

“The first pitch was a slider down the middle, and I took it. The second pitch was a slider down and in, which I fouled off. The third pitch was a fastball up, and I flew out to Luis Robert. I thought it had a chance to fall for a hit, but Robert obviously covers a lot of ground. It just hung up a little too long. I think it was around 85 [exit velocity] and a little over 20 [launch angle].”

On his first hit

“It felt a little bit different, maybe a touch more comfortable. I felt pretty relaxed the first time, but maybe a little more relaxed the next time. Even though I hadn’t had a hit to that point, I was still confident in what I was doing. I knew that it was just a matter of time. I felt like I’d been putting together great at-bats, so I basically went out there trying to battle.

“I got to two strikes, but I feel confident hitting with two strikes. I feel that’s a strength of mine. The first pitch was actually a slider down that I took for a ball, but then I took a strike and the next one was a pitch down that I kind of half swung at. After that, I think I took a fastball up, then fouled off a couple of sliders. I believe it was a seven-pitch at-bat. In the end, I got a changeup that was actually a decent pitch — it was away on the corner — and I hit it over Tim Anderson’s head.”

On what it felt like to stand on first base

“I mean it was just a whirlwind of joy. I’ve worked so hard to get here. It’s been a long journey, and to finally get that first big-league hit, and to have it come against the White Sox… and it was a pure hit. I hit it 102 [mph], a nice live drive. It just felt really good, really satisfying. There was a lot of joy.”

On how he views his future, both on and off the field

“I’m grateful for every moment of life, not just life in the big leagues. At the end of the day, I’m way more than a baseball player. I’ve got an amazing wife, an amazing family, amazing people around me that have helped get me to this point. I praise God for all of that. No matter what I’m going to go on to do in life, I’m hopefully going to have a positive impact on people everywhere I go. That’s what’s really important to me.

“All that being said, I know that I can play in this league. The pitchers are a little bit better, but that doesn’t mean I can’t play at this level. I prepare hard. I work hard. I know that I’m ready. The experience up here has been fun.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

I’m a bit sad that my Guardians not longer have Call at their… beck and call (I didn’t realize that pun until I was already typing it, ugh >.<), but at least he’ll get more playing time with the awful Nationals.

Left of Centerfield
1 year ago
Reply to  EonADS

Yeah but at least they batter Benson & Hedges back to back yesterday…

1 year ago

And it worked out, hilariously enough. Two of the Guardians three runs yesterday came from that pairing.