BUFFALO – Chris Gittens had his first career hit – a homer of all things – until he didn’t.
It was last Thursday in Minneapolis when the righty-swinging first baseman, promoted from Triple-A on June 5, sliced one down the rightfield line.
Initially called a home run, a replay review, initiated by the crew chief, reversed the mistaken call, keeping the 27-year-old without his first career big-league hit.
Tuesday night there was no drama to it; at least, not in terms of whether it was fair or foul.
The 27-year-old, a 12th-round pick of the Yankees in 2014, crushed a first-pitch Hyun-jin Ryu fastball to left-center, giving Gittens his first career hit, and homer, snapping a 0-for-13 stretch.
"I touched first base and my mind just went blank," Gittens, wearing an ear-to-ear smile after the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field. "I didn’t care if it was a home run, a base hit or a little squibber. That was an amazing feeling. Thank God I was able to get a home run tonight."
Gittens became the sixth Yankee since 2005 to make his first career hit a home run, joining Kyle Higashioka (July 1, 2018 vs. Boston), Aaron Judge (Aug. 13, 2016 vs. Tampa Bay), Tyler Austin (also Aug. 13, 2016 vs. Tampa), Mason Williams (June 12, 2015 at Baltimore) and Zelous Wheeler (July 3, 2014) at Minnesota).
The ball cleared the huge netting in left, leaving the stadium completely and landing near the entrance ramp to I-190. A Yankees security executive retrieved the ball from the fan outside the stadium who ended up with it and presented to Gittens after the game.
"I’m going to give it to my son (Triston)," Gittens said, still beaming.
Triston was born May 22.
"Whenever I get a chance to see him again," Gittens said, "I’m going to definitely put it in his little crib and let him have it."
Gittens, not in the lineup Wednesday as the Yankees tried to take the second game of the three-game series against the Blue Jays with Gerrit Cole on the mound, is 1-for-17 since being called up. His numbers should be a bit better as he’s had more than a few hard-hit balls in that stretch.
That jibes with what multiple opposing team scouts have said about Gittens during his time in the minors. While never rating him as much more than average in the field they, to varying degrees, praise his power and believe he can be, at the very least, an adequate big-league hitter if given regular at-bats.
"All I’ve seen him consistently do (in the minors)," one evaluator said, "is barrel it."
Not surprisingly, the home run hit by the amiable Gittens, a popular presence in the clubhouse, was, well, a big hit.
"(Felt) really good (for him)," Clint Frazier said. "I've had the pleasure of hanging out with him for the last couple of weeks and just talking to him a little bit more than I have in the past. You know, he really wanted that (first) hit, and I think everything happens for a reason. I think he’s ecstatic his first one landed on a highway in Buffalo, New York. How else could you draw that up?"
With Luke Voit, out with a right oblique strain, expected back within the week, Gittens’ time in the majors could be coming to a close for now, which is not his primary focus at the moment.
"I know I have a job to do to have a better life for my son," he said. ‘That’s my motivation right now. Just play every day, get better every day so my son doesn’t have to live the way I live. It’s been great."