‘Special moment’: Miguel Amaya revels in first career big-league hit
Saturday morning, Miguel Amaya was just trying to keep things in perspective.
In five of his first six career plate appearances in the big leagues, he had done almost everything needed to pick up his first hit. Five balls with exit velocities over 100 mph, and you’d like your chances of having at least 1 hit — after all, league-wide the batting average on balls hit at the velocity or higher was .591.
“Of course, it’s tough,” Amaya said Saturday before the Cubs took on the Marlins. “You wanna have results right away. But baseball isn’t easy. Hitting isn’t easy. I keep having faith in the process, I keep working.”
Just a few hours later, he was rewarded — by hitting a 67-mph dribbler up the middle of the infield that squeaked by the Marlins infield for a single. It drove in Nick Madrigal as the Cubs beat Miami 4-2.
“Baseball gods, man,” Amaya said. “Sometimes you hit it hard, it goes straight to the fielder. I just got jammed on my hands and this is all to put the ball in play and I put it in play and things happen, you know?”
Maybe, Amaya was just hitting it too hard.
“That exit velo stuff’s overrated, isn’t it?” David Ross said sarcastically with a laugh. “Good at-bat there, being patient. That’s a big moment — fans on their feet here at Wrigley and stayed with his plan [and] was able to put something in play and get his first knock. Happy for him.”
Amaya’s first big-league hit seemed unlikely to happen on Saturday. Tucker Barnhart was starting, and the lefty was having a solid game — both at the plate (1-for-3 with a single) and behind the dish, calling a solid game and helping to keep the Cubs in it when starter Drew Smyly was chased from the game after 3.1 innings.
But the Cubs had mounted a rally in the 8th inning, with Madrigal taking a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball from A.J. Puk to right field for a 2-run single that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. The opportunistic Madrigal took second on the throw home and Ross sensed an opportunity to cushion a sudden lead and provide some experience under a rookie’s belt.
Ross liked the matchup with Puk better for Amaya and figured he could at least advance Madrigal with his contact-first approach.
“I think that’s a little bit more my thinking and Miggy’s looked really good and calm and his minor league numbers against lefties have been really good,” Ross said. “Gotta continue to expose the young player when you feel like he hadn’t shown anything but poise and calmness in moments and there’s another nice little feather in his cap to get his first knock in a big moment.”
His teammates trusted Amaya’s ability to deliver, too.
“He’s been barreling balls left and right,” Madrigal said. “I had a funny feeling it would be on something that’s soft hit.
“He’s done an unbelieve job. It seems like he’s been up here for years. Seems like he’s been in some big spots coming in the first couple of games and he’s handled it so well. Just so happy for him.”
It’s a dream come true for Amaya. He grew up in Panama hoping and wishing he could one day become a major leaguer. Now, he’s done that — and has a hit at the game’s highest level.
“Living the dream,” Amaya said. “Excited for this special moment for me and it’s just like I always say, ‘you gotta be ready for it.’
“I was ready and I let it happen, put the ball in play and got my first knock.”