Highly touted prospect hits RBI single, makes sliding catch in first game
By Sam Butler
ARLINGTON -- Willie Calhoun was in Phoenix when his phone started buzzing, only he wasn't there to pick it up. He was out at dinner with his girlfriend and had left his phone at home, so then his girlfriend's phone rang. On the other end was Calhoun's agent, who said he needed to call Jayce Tingler, the Rangers' assistant GM of player development.
Calhoun was getting called up. He had to abandon his plans to drive from Arizona to California on Tuesday morning, and instead hopped on a flight to Dallas after getting "about three hours of sleep." The lefty slugger debuted in the club's 10-3 loss to the Mariners on Tuesday.
Calhoun, the Rangers' No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, walked into the clubhouse on Tuesday and saw his name in the lineup, batting seventh and playing left field.
"It's a dream come true, it's something I've been dreaming about ever since I was a little kid," Calhoun said. "Being able to get that call was very exciting for me. I couldn't be happier and I'm happy to be here."
Prior to the first pitch, Rangers manager Jeff Banister had some advice for the rookie about to make his debut. Banister's been there before, and he wanted to make sure Calhoun took in everything -- the scene he was about to experience would only happen once, and it was one he wouldn't ever want to forget.
Said Banister: "I told him before the game, 'Listen, enjoy it. Soak it all up. Hear the noises, the sounds, use your eyes to see so that the memories are fresh and long-lasting. Because as you embark on a Major League career, there's only one first day. And then it's down to business.'"
Calhoun's Major League career didn't take long to get rolling. He singled in his first at-bat -- on his first swing, no less -- driving a ball through the right side which got the Rangers on the board.
"That was fun. I definitely enjoyed it," he said. "I can't even soak it in yet. It's an unreal feeling, and being able to do that is very cool."
It almost seemed like Mariners hitters knew it was Calhoun's debut, too, because he got plenty of work in left field -- "probably the most action I've had in a while," he said -- making a handful of sliding catches, nearly throwing out a runner at home and playing a carom off the wall with aplomb.
His parents were in attendance, along with a few of his uncles, his girlfriend and his godfather. They were all seated in the first row behind the Rangers' on-deck circle, and every time Calhoun came up to bat, their smiles grew wide and bright.
After the game, everyone in the family gathered on the field to take pictures and make sure Calhoun's first day in the Majors would be remembered forever.
"They're really proud of me. They're happy to be here, and those are my biggest supporters and have been with me ever since I was a little kid," he said. "They've known that this was my dream, and being able to see them happy really makes me happy."
Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.