Kansas City, Mo. — After Grayson Greiner grounded out in the ninth inning Sunday, John Hicks turned to James McCann in the Tigers’ dugout.
“I looked at McCann and I was like, 'Man, that’s four pretty impressive at-bats for a debut,’” Hicks said. “It was awesome for him to get a knock in his first big-league at-bat.”
It certainly matched Greiner’s dreams. His wife, baby son and father were in the stands. And he came up hacking in his first at-bat.
Leading off the third inning, he fouled off the first pitch he saw from Royals right-hander Jakob Junis.
The next pitch he slammed between the third baseman and shortstop, a ball hit with an exit velocity of 105.4 mph. Clean single.
“It was pretty much like, I’m not going to sit here and take pitches,” said Greiner, the Tigers’ third round pick out of South Carolina in 2014. “I am going to go get it. That first pitch I fouled off was a good one and the next one I was able to get the barrel to and get a hit.
“I’m an aggressive hitter and it paid off for me.”
The ball was retrieved, though hitting coach Lloyd McClendon bluffed throwing it into the stands.
“It was a cool feeling,” Greiner said. “Right off the bat, I knew it was a hit. Kind of like the weight was right off my shoulders. It was a good feeling and it was really cool that my family was here to see it.”
Greiner thought he might’ve had his first big-league home run in the seventh. He hit a ball high and deep to left-center — struck at 106.5 mph. But that’s the wrong part of Kauffman Stadium to hit a high fly ball when the wind was blowing in.
“I thought I hit it pretty good,” said Greiner, who finished 1-for-4. “I felt good running the bases and then I look up and he’s catching it at the track.”
He got a bat-tip and a pat on the shoulder from Royals' Whit Merrifield after his first hit — both played at South Carolina. But Merrifield tormented him, and the Tigers infielders, on the bases. He stole three bases, one without drawing a throw.
“That’s what he does,” Greiner said. “He puts the ball in play and took advantage of what was out there.”
By all accounts, Greiner called and caught a good game for starting pitcher Matthew Boyd, who went seven strong innings.
“It’s always great to see that,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Greiner’s debut. “He did a heckuva job catching and calling the ballgame, and he put some nice swings all day. He had a good day. This is something he will remember the rest of his life.
“That’s the fun part of the game.”
Here’s a little Greiner trivia: At 6-foot-6, he joins the list of tallest catchers to play in the major leagues — Pete Koegel (1970-1972), Don Gile (1959-1962) and Anton Falch (1884) were the others.