Jeurys Familia showed enough in striking out Lance Berkman and pitching a scoreless inning this week in St. Louis to make Terry Collins want to see Familia's arm "three times a week" and to consider giving him a start. No matter how that works out, Familia certainly accomplished something he never will do again: He made his big-league debut.
So the Mets' dugout was filled with high-fives for him and shouts of "welcome to the major leagues!" Tuesday night, just as the Cardinals' dugout saluted pitching prodigy Shelby Miller after he struck out four Mets in two innings Wednesday afternoon.
Familia was happy to be welcomed to the family and pleased that someone thought enough of the occasion to retrieve the ball.
"That was me," catcher Kelly Shoppach said, pleased to learn that Familia, 22, will give the ball to his parents when they visit New York from the Dominican Republic during the homestand that starts against the Braves on Friday night. "Perfect. Awesome. You can't ever take for granted what you can get from this game and the privilege we have to do it."
The point is, a major-league debut always is a big deal because everyone on the field and in the dugout remembers when it was his turn.
"Sunday night baseball at Yankee Stadium," Shoppach said, recalling his first start (and not counting a late-inning defensive appearance the day before) for the Red Sox on May 29, 2005. "Jeter led off the bottom of the first with a homer and Sheffield hit a homer two batters later. I remember thinking to myself, 'Man, I am not doing a very good job of calling a game here.'
"I remember the magnitude of the moment for me, and how deafening the old Yankee Stadium was."
Scott Hairston was thrilled for Familia on Tuesday because it reminded him of being sent up to pinch hit by Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly on May 7, 2004. "Oh, man, I remember it like it was yesterday," he said. "I had my family in the stands. My first at-bat was against Billy Wagner, a pinch-hit at-bat. There were a lot of emotions running through my head. I was pretty anxious, pretty nervous, at the same time proud because this was what I always dreamed of. I remember that at-bat went so fast. Struck out, 3-2 fastball inside. I think it was 99 miles an hour."
Mets third-base coach Tim Teufel started for the Twins on Sept. 3, 1983. "The first at-bat, you don't even feel your legs," he said of having popped out to Cal Ripken Jr. against Scott McGregor before getting a single his next time up. "It's exciting and it's surreal."
Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo is in charge of saving the ball for the likes of Miller. He didn't recall all the details of his debut for the Mets on May 2, 1983, against the Astros at Shea Stadium. "I got picked off first base," he said. Oquendo forgot that he pinch hit for Mike Torrez against the Astros' Frank LaCorte, reached on a forceout and was doubled off first on Mookie Wilson's line drive to end the game.
Daniel Murphy said of a start in Houston on Aug. 2, 2008, "I was excited. I almost threw up, too. I was fortunate to come up in the middle of a pennant race. You're nervous because you've built it up in your mind and it's just something different about the three [stadium] decks and the fans."
Still, he singled in his first at-bat against Roy Oswalt.
Mets reliever Justin Hampson was with the Rockies for four days in 2006 before he got into a game. His first pitch was a hanging curve to Alfonso Soriano, who took it for a called strike. "I kind of let out a breath, like, 'I got away with one there,' and I was able to get him out," he said. "Nobody will remember it, but I'll never forget it."
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