Kelby Tomlinson and Family Enjoy the Moment in Big League Debut


Monday’s series opening contest between the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves was a back-and-forth fight, with the two sides trading blows the entire way. It opened with the Giants landing four big shots early to the Braves’ chin, as Buster Posey and Brandon Belt both homered, and Brandon Crawford did so twice to put the Giants out to an early 6-0 lead. The Braves withstood the barrage and battled back, landing some body blows to get back into the game before landing their own right hook to tie it up on A.J. Pierzynski‘s two-run home run in the ninth inning.

The knockout blow came from the appropriately named Adonis Garcia, who sent the Atlanta fans home happy with a walk-off two-run home run in the 12th inning.

The night went wrong on so many levels for the Giants. But for their rookie Kelby Tomlinson, Monday night couldn’t have gone any better.

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When All-Star, and budding superstar second baseman Joe Panik was forced to the disabled list by lower back inflammation, the Giants had to make a move. With open spots on the 40-man roster left by the designations of Jean Machi and Joaquin Arias, they were left with a little bit of roster flexibility. That allowed them to purchase Tomlinson’s contract from the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, and call him up to the Major Leagues for the first time in his professional career.

Tomlinson was a 12th-round pick for the Giants in 2011, and has been a lowly-regarded prospect since then, even despite having a tremendous season through Double-A and Triple-A so far this year. A .321 combined average, 19 doubles, 43 runs batted in, 64 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases weren’t enough to land him on the Giants’ midseason top-30 prospects list, even after two players on the list were traded.

Tomlinson didn’t start on Monday, and if not for a blown save in the ninth inning, Tomlinson probably wouldn’t have played at all. But the stars aligned just right for the bespectacled middle infielder, and in the 12th inning, manager Bruce Bochy called upon Tomlinson to take his first hacks.

With his wife, Tiffany, and his father, Chris, in the stands, Tomlinson dug in against left-hander Ross Detwiler, with the score knotted at seven. He wasted no time, swinging at the first pitch and fouling it straight back. After a ball down and in to even the count, Tomlinson lined the third pitch of the at-bat, a 93-mile per hour fastball down around the knees, straight up the middle, collecting his first career major league hit.

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The hit was very nearly overshadowed by the reaction of Tomlinson’s family. Even before Tomlinson stepped in the box, Chris was clapping his hands, and Tiffany had her eyes closed with her hand on her chest, trying to keep her composure before opening her eyes, grinning ear-to-ear, and letting out a small chuckle.

With Chris watching intently, and Tiffany’s hands clasped over her mouth, Tomlinson’s base hit sent them through a wave of emotions. They both jumped from their seats, arms pointed skyward. Chris pumped his arms up and down as Tiffany returned her hand over her mouth, eyes popping out of her head with pure emotion.

They locked in an embrace that can only be brought about by the most joyous of moments before Chris released one more vicious arm pump. They returned to their seats shortly afterwards, and Chris pulled Tiffany in again for another hug of celebration as tears forced their way from Tiffany’s eyes. They were soon joined in celebration by Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland‘s wife, Shelley, who very likely was going through the same thing when her husband made his debut on September 1st last year.

The entire moment is worth a watch. The smiles from the Braves’ fans sitting behind them really put a nice extra touch on the whole thing.

After the game, Mercury News’ Andrew Baggarly spoke with Tiffany, whose words may just be enough to put a tear in your eye, if the video didn’t already do it.

"“I tried to keep it together the best I could. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think I believed it until he got on deck and got ready to hit. Then it was, `My goodness, it’s actually going to happen.’ I’m still in disbelief. It was all the emotions all at once. It was so exciting. I wanted to throw up. I’m just so proud of him.”"

That type of pure raw emotion is part of what makes sports so beautiful. Two people united as someone they love succeeds at something he loves makes for an awe-inspiring moment. It’s been a long road for Kelby, but his family has been with him every step of the way. Not only was that a huge pressure-relieving hit for him, but for his loved ones as well.

But to Kelby, the one who, you know, actually played in the game, it was business as usual.

"“I felt pretty good, just a little nervous, but it felt like another game. So that’s good.”"

The night didn’t end in that moment for Tomlinson, either. After a Gregor Blanco hit-by-pitch moved him over to second, Tomlinson tagged up and moved to third on a Matt Duffy flyball to deep center. With his blazing speed, Tomlinson took a hearty turn around third. When Buster Posey singled to right field in the next at-bat, Tomlinson walked in to score the go-ahead run.

The lead didn’t hold, but on a personal level, Tomlinson made an immediate impact. The Giants have an obvious need for depth, and with Panik out, Tomlinson could do well to fill that void for the time being. He can play both shortstop and second base, and has played a small amount of third base as well. In a time where the Giants could really use his versatility and his bat, Tomlinson has an opportunity to really help in his first taste of big league action.

Next: Joe Panik Hits the 15-Day DL