Elijah Dukes knows a little something about hitting a home run during a Major League debut.
In April of 2007, in the fifth inning of the Rays season opener, a then 23 year old Dukes took Yankees starter Carl Pavano deep in his first official at bat. Fortunately, the ball lodged itself in Yankee Stadium’s center field wall and Dukes had no trouble recovering it as a keepsake.
“Nothing can compare to that [experience],” Dukes said tonight after watching his 23 year old teammate accomplish the same feat.
It was, after all, Ian Desmond’s night to shine, complete with his own debut homer, a curtain call, four RBI and a pie in the face reward from his teammates.
In the fifth inning, a nervous Desmond sprinted around the bases quickly, not convinced the ball was leaving the park. As fans behind the Nationals dugout applauded and begged for a curtain call, Desmond stood perplexed and quickly sought the advice of his teammates.
"I've never had anything like that happen before," Desmond said. "I didn't know if they were being serious or not, so I kind of didn't want to look like a dummy."
To fans, he looked more like a superstar -- a welcome sign of hope and a reason to start thinking about next spring.
"The ball was crystal clear, I feel like the lights...everything was just so clear. I don't know, but it felt good," he said.
The team retrieved the ball for Desmond, who planned to give it to his mother as thank you present for all of her support.
In addition to sharing debut home run history, Dukes spent time with Desmond playing in AAA Syracuse. Desmond quickly impressed Dukes with his talent and hustle.
"He's a gamer, he can really play," said Dukes. "He's one of those guys you can look at and say 'yeah, he's got it.'"