When Mickey Moniak learned that he’ll be making his first major-league start on Thurday, it wasn’t from Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi. Instead, a fellow rookie broke the news to the 22-year-old when he entered the clubhouse, joking around with Moniak ahead of his big night.
“The first person who told me was actually (rookie catcher Rafael) Marchan,” Moniak said via Zoom on Thursday. “He’s like, ‘Oh, big left fielder!’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ because I hadn’t looked at the lineup yet.”
Moniak, the first pick in the 2016 MLB draft, will be playing left field and batting ninth when the Phillies take on the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night. This comes one night after his promotion to the big leagues and the eventual debut he made as a pinch runner in the ninth inning Wednesday.
“It was cool to be able to text my family and friends, and say, ‘Hey, turn on the game tonight. I’m going to get more than a pinch run,'” Moniak said. “It’s going to be cool, so everyone’s fired up.”
His family and friends will be watching the game from home due to the pandemic keeping fans out of the stadium, which Moniak acknowledged wasn’t ideal but said he knows they can see him play down the line. The California native talked to many of those people close to him over the phone after he learned about his promotion at the Phillies alternate training site in Lehigh Valley.
“No. 1 was my dad,” Moniak said. “That was a tough one, because — I get emotional thinking about it — I had a hard time getting it out, talking to him. He started bawling on the phone, I could tell. It was a cool moment, for sure.”
Moniak then called his mother and his grandfather, Bill, who played in the minor leagues in the Boston Red Sox organization in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also made calls to some of the former coaches he had throughout his youth.
Moniak’s promotion came after a minor-league tenure that had its fair share of ups and downs. He struggled at the plate after being selected with that No. 1 pick, before seeing some improvements last season in Double-A.
“At first I didn’t think it was going to affect me at all, being an 18-year-old kid getting into pro ball and never having a struggle in my life,” Moniak said. “One those struggles hit, it kind of hit me. I had to take a step back and … keep working towards one goal, and that’s getting to the big leagues.”Embed from Getty Images
After suffering a right knee injury falling down his stairs earlier this summer, the young outfielder made his way to the alternate training site at the end of August, and performed well enough to reach that goal.
Now that Moniak has reached the big leagues, Girardi believes that his addition could provide a spark for a team riddled with injuries and looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“I think a lot of times, the excitement for young players — I don’t know if you were able to tell when Marchan got his first hit, how excited everybody on the bench was for him,” Girardi said.” “… Mickey’s got talent. There’s no doubt about it, and he could be a nice shot in the arm for us.”
Moniak is looking to do what he can to help the team in this final stretch after finally earning the chance with the team that selected him four years ago.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a ride since I got drafted here and I’ve learned a lot. I think I’m a better baseball player because of it,” he said. “I’m just very grateful to be here and be on a team that’s in a playoff run. Hopefully I can help the team win and make a push into the postseason.”
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