Third baseman Ryan Wheeler got a surprise on Thursday from his minor league manager in Reno, Brett Butler. He was told that he was headed to the big leagues to join the Arizona Diamondbacks. Friday was a day of firsts for him.
It was his first day in the majors, and then he found out that he would make his first start, batting eighth.
His debut had ups and downs. In the top of the first inning, Matt Downs bunted a ball that Wheeler fielded but was unable to hold onto and make a throw. It originally was ruled an error, but that ruling was changed, as he would not have been able to throw out Downs had he been able to make the throw.
In the field, he made a couple of pretty good plays, but later committed his first error.
He struck out his first two at-bats -- another first. But he was all smiles in the seventh inning. He got his first major league hit, a single to center field.
He also ended the inning, getting thrown out at the plate for the first time, which ended the inning.
Despite the ups and downs that the fans perceived, he saw the whole thing as a wonderful experience.
"It was awesome," he said after the game, smiling the entire time. "I didn't know what to expect going out there."
His family was even there to witness the game, which he said was "real special."
In all the excitement of the game and experience, he did forget about the ball of his hit. "I didn't even get the ball," he said, realizing he had forgotten about it. "I'm not used to getting a hit. I don't know what happened to the ball. I gotta find it."
One would assume he wasn't used to getting a hit in the majors. He was hitting .351 in Reno.
"If you're able to control your heart rate and your emotions, the game is very similar," said Wheeler, referring to the difference of being in the majors for the first time. "The key is controlling how you feel, and that's the tough part."
Now that he got those "monkeys" off his back, now he can focus on letting the game get back to what he is used to.
Hopefully, that hit will be the first of many this season and just one of thousands for his career.
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