Michael Chavis lived a dream on Saturday. The No. 3 prospect in the Red Sox system not only made his MLB debut, he banged out a pinch-hit double in his first-ever at bat. He did so against Tampa Bay’s Jose Alvarado, with one on and one out in the top of the ninth inning, and the score knotted at five apiece. Boston went on to score, then held on for a 6-5 win.
There’s a pretty good chance that Chavis was the happiest person in Tropicana Dome that night. He was certainly one of the most excited. At age 23, the native of Marietta, Georgia had done in real life what he once fantasized about doing while batting rocks with a stick in his family’s back yard.
Chavis described the thrill-of-lifetime experience prior to yesterday’s game at Fenway Park.
Michael Chavis: “I wasn’t in the lineup — I was on the bench — but I knew the situation. They’d said there was a chance I would get to hit that day. Of course, I didn’t know when, who for, or who would be pitching. Come the eighth inning, looking at the lineup and how the game was playing out, I was thinking there was a chance.
“I’m taking some swings in the cage, and they come in and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to pinch hit in the ninth.’ I’m like, OK. Beautiful. ‘Who’s pitching?’ They say, ‘It’s Alvarado.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, wow.’ He’s a talented guy. Very good fastball.
“I’d faced him in spring training. I’d just come back from being sick, and it was kind of a similar situation in that I didn’t know if I was going to hit. I went up there and K’d on something like four pitches. I hadn’t seen a pitch in seven days, which made a 100-mph fastball that runs like his even more difficult to see.
“Heading into [Saturday’s] at-bat, I looked at a little bit of video to get a scouting report on what he might do. There wasn’t a whole lot of time, and the biggest thing was getting my swing ready, so it was quick. I mostly just wanted to see his motion. That, and the action of his fastball.
“The nerves didn’t really hit me until I got on deck. Then I was like, ‘Wow. This is real.’ Standing there, I could hear my family. A bunch of people were screaming for me as soon as I walked out of the dugout. It was kind of weird, just knowing what was happening.
“Walking up to the plate, I heard them announce, ‘Making his major league debut…,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my god.’ I almost cried in the batter’s box. It’s something I’d dreamed about, many times, as a kid. That exact situation. We had a garden in the back yard, and I used to go out there with what was basically a stick, and would toss up rocks from the garden like they were baseballs. I would pretend that I was playing for the Red Sox, facing a closer, and I’d get a big hit. I imagined that a million times in my back yard.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. The first couple pitches I was actually good. Then I got to two strikes. I remember stepping back into the box and my legs felt a little bit weird. Luckily, Alvarado called time and I was able to step back out of the box and kind of recover myself.
“The first pitch he threw me was up and in, for a ball. I believe the second pitch was a slider that I swung over. I remember looking up and seeing that it was 92 mph. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’
“On 1-1, he threw me a fastball down and away, and I broke my bat. I was like, ‘Oh, man,’ because right before I walked out there the bat boy was like, ‘Hey, do you have another bat in case you break one?’ I was like, ‘I’m sure I’ll be fine; I don’t break a lot of bats.’ So naturally, I break one. Alvarado’s fastball ran off of my barrel.
“Walking over to get a new bat, I was laughing. I like to laugh. I think a lot of things are funny, and I thought it was funny that I’d literally told the bat boy that I don’t break many bats.
“Alvarado bounced a slider on the 1-2, and then I got a fastball down and in. That’s the one I hit for a double. I hit it to pretty much straightaway center, and it went over [Kevin] Kiermaier’s head. When you square up a ball like that you don’t really even feel it. But I heard it. I knew what was happening.
“Kiermaier is a platinum glover, so I’m praying that he doesn’t catch it. I’m like, ‘I caught a barrel, man, just give me this one. It’s my first at-bat!’ I could see that he’s kind of flipping his hips, so it was going to be a tough play. But again, being a platinum glover, that’s what he does — he catches balls other guys don’t get to. I’m just glad it got over his head. Jackie [Bradley Jr.] got to third, and then Benny [Andrew Benintendi] got the RBI. It played out really well.
“I ran my butt off. My helmet was too big and almost fell off every step I took. Rounding first base, I knew it wasn’t going to stay. I just had to let it go. Since then I’ve gotten a new helmet, one that fits normal.
“What was I thinking [standing on second base]? ‘Don’t cry. Act like you’ve been here before.’ That’s pretty much it, honestly. There were a whole lot of emotions. I could hear my mom. I knew where they were sitting, so I could see them, and all that. It was wild. I’m sure my mom was crying. Without a doubt. She’s a big crier. Everybody there… I mean, it was an emotional moment.
“After the game, everybody was super enthusiastic. All of my teammates knew the situation. Everybody here has been through his own debut, and his first hit. They know how important it is.
“I went out with my family afterwards. It was late, so not much was open, but we found a place and had dinner. There was a TV. It was the first time I’d seen myself on TV — they were showing highlights from the game. It was weird. There I was, watching myself on TV, and they’re talking about me and the Boston Red Sox. I’m part of this team now. Unreal.”
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.