HYANNIS, Mass. – Former Cape Cod Baseball League players Brett Pill (Orleans, 2005) and Tom Milone (Chatham, 2007) are now members of a very exclusive club after hitting home runs in their first major league at-bats.
On Tuesday night in San Diego, Pill debuted by powering an 0-1 offering from Wade LeBlanc out of PETCO Park for a two-run homer as the San Francisco Giants beat the Padres 6-4.
Three nights earlier, rookie pitcher Milone drove New York Mets starter Dillon Gee’s first pitch into Washington’s right-field bullpen for a three-run homer and a 5-0 lead en route to an 8-7 Nationals’ victory.
St. Louis Cardinal Mark Worrell (Cotuit, 2003) is the only other Cape League player to homer in his MLB debut in this decade, his dramatic blast coming on June 5, 2008.
Only four others from among the 900-plus Cape League players who made it to the big leagues accomplished the feat -- Marlon Anderson (Wareham, 1994) in 1998 for the Phillies, Dave Eiland (Falmouth, 1986) in 1992 for the Padres, Will Clark (Cotuit, 1983) in 1986 and another former Kettleer, Terry Steinbach (Cotuit, 1982), for the A’s in 1986.
Pill’s shot over the left field barrier with Mark DeRosa (Bourne, 1995) on first base was the first debut homer by a Giant since the 1986 season opener when Clark took Nolan Ryan deep in Houston’s Astrodome.
Pill spent several games watching from the dugout after joining the Giants on Aug. 31 from Triple-A Fresno where he was hitting .312 with 25 home runs and 107 RBIs in 133 games, but the big first baseman blasted the second pitch thrown to him by southpaw LeBlanc off the facade of PETCO Park’s Western Metal Supply Building.
The current Giants player batted .198 in 33 games at Orleans, but showed good power with a .405 slugging percentage and five home runs, which put him just three behind league-leader Evan Longoria of Chatham. The Cal State Fullerton product was the Giants’ 7th-round pick in the 2006 amateur entry draft (206th overall) and signed for a reported $130,000 bonus.
Milone is the only ex-Cape League pitcher and just the eighth MLB hurler to homer on the first pitch of his first at-bat. He was the Nationals’ 10th-round draft pick in June 2008 after winning the Cape League’s Outstanding Pitcher Award the previous summer with a 6-1 record and 2.92 ERA. He appeared in eight games, all starts, and never batted.
The USC southpaw, who turns 27 on Friday, retired the first six Mets before he stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the second inning with two runners aboard. A .346 hitter at Triple-A Syracuse, he wasted no time driving Gee’s first pitch, a fast ball, into the Nationals’ bullpen in right field to the delight of 34,821 cheering fans.
He later told Washington Times (and former Cape Cod Times) baseball writer Amanda Comak, “When I was running down the first-base line, it was almost like I was dreaming.” Comak wrote that the cheers continued until Milone, prodded by veteran teammates, emerged from the Nats’ dugout for a curtain call.
Milone pitched well in the early going but gave up four runs in the fourth inning and was lifted by manager Davey Johnson with one out in the fifth. The Mets eventually overtook the Nats and led 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth when Ryan Zimmerman’s bases-loaded, broken-bat single gave the Nats a walk-off win.