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How Christopher Morel predicted Alexander Canario’s first big-league home run

8 months agoAndy Martinez

As a baseball player, Christopher Morel feels like he has somewhat of a sixth sense.

It’s a feeling — he can’t really put his finger on what to call it — of when things are going to happen.

“Simply put, there’s a lot of things in baseball that — even though you can’t see them or aren’t written — you can feel them,” Morel said.

He had one of those feelings Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

In the bottom of the 8th inning of a 6-1 game with the bases loaded, rookie Alexander Canario stepped up to the plate for the fourth time in his first big-league start and only his 5th major-league at-bat.

Morel went around the Cubs dugout predicting the future, a modern-day Nostradamus, per se.

“I said ‘He’s gonna hit it out with bases loaded and I’m gonna take my shirt off and celebrate it big,’” Morel said.  

The game situation dictated it.

Canario’s play helped give him that intuition.

In his first at-bat Canario had grounded out to short and in his second he struck out. His third at-bat produced his first hit, an RBI-double. Then in that fourth at-bat, Canario had worked a 1-2 count against Kyle Nicolas, who was making his major-league debut.

The third pitch of the at-bat was a fastball up and in that he swung and missed. The fourth pitch was another fastball that he fouled off. He figured he wouldn’t get another fastball.

“For the home run, I was just looking for my pitch and it came and I hit it,” Canario said.

And Morel held up his end of the bargain.

“That’s when I took it off and I told the boys ‘I told you! I told you!’” Morel said. “It was a moment — it was as if I had hit it because I had an intuition and I told my teammates.”

Morel was with Canario through a difficult last 10 months or so. Canario seemed a lock to make his major-league debut in 2023 after a breakout campaign in the minors last season. However, a gruesome injury in the Dominican Winter League created some doubts and led to a long recovery. Morel would use his faith to help keep Canario’s spirits up.

When Canario was recalled on September 1 and rode the bench for most of the previous 18 days — including being optioned to Iowa for a day — Morel was his biggest supporter.

“I always told him to stay positive,” Morel said. “Wait for your moment. One day it will come and take advantage of it to the maximum but enjoy your game.”

That came Tuesday when Canario was penciled into the Cubs lineup for the first time.

“At the beginning of the game, I told him your time is here, enjoy your game,” Morel said. “All the time you have, enjoy it as if it was your last day, because you never know.”

He did that and then some.

Canario became the second Cub since 2000 to hit a grand slam for his first career home run (Taylor Davis vs. St. Louis on May 4, 2018). And it helped give the Cubs a much-needed win.

The moment invoked memories of Morel’s first major-league home run in his first at-bat in 2022. Then-teammate Willson Contreras treated the moment as if it was his and Morel did likewise.

“That’s exactly how it felt,” Morel said. “It was a teammate that hit it, it was a Dominican, it was a person that we’ve shared so many battles together.”

It all stemmed from a hunch — faith in a higher power and belief in one another.

“Since the moment he got here, he’s always been working,” Morel said. “I told him that his time was coming and it was going to be an incredible moment and you’re gonna enjoy it because God doesn’t miss.”

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