For some players, the ball just sounds different coming off their bat. Some can spin a breaking ball in such a way that you know the hitter has no chance before the pitch is halfway to the plate. There are others . . . who you can tell are different simply by how they carry themselves.
I’m struggling as to how to explain it. It’s not really a swagger that [he] has. It’s more of a comfortable magnetism. He reminds me of a feature tailback, or a really good cover corner, with that smile that says he knows he’s going to beat you more often than not. He’s going to be a leader.
I wrote that at Fall Instructs in Surprise, Arizona, on October 5, 2007.
About Elvis Andrus, who was 19 years and 40 days old.
Coming off a season in which he hit .257/.338/.343 between Atlanta’s High Class A affiliate and the Rangers’ High A club.
At the same age, Jurickson Profar was ahead of Elvis Andrus.
At 19 years and 40 days old, Profar was in Surprise as well, hours away from getting into his third big league spring training game of the month, and days away from a trip to Frisco, which would mark his first two-level jump of the year. He would be a AA player – in fact the youngest player in all of AA baseball. With zero chance of being traded.
Six months later, another two-level jump, and Profar found himself back to back with Andrus in the lineup, side by side with him in the infield.
And on the receiving end of a towelful of shaving cream.
Andrus’s introduction to the big leagues couldn’t have gone much better. On Opening Day, he was in the lineup at age 20, batting ninth, against Cleveland.
First at-bat: A double to right field off Cliff Lee, moving Jarrod Saltalamacchia to third base, and then a run scored on an Ian Kinsler single as part of a four-run second that would set things up for an easy 9-1 win. A strikeout and two weak groundouts to shortstop followed.
Day two: An RBI single in the second inning and a run scored, again part of a four-run second, and a sixth-inning home run to right center, sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts. A comfortable 8-5 win over the Indians.
So Andrus, age 20, doubled and homered from the ninth spot against Cleveland in the first two games of his big league career.
Profar did it against the Indians in two at-bats.
Ron Washington sat Andrus the next day, and he’s sitting Profar the next one, too. Far different circumstances, of course – Andrus was the club’s everyday shortstop, sitting about once a week as he got acclimated to the big leagues. Profar doesn’t have a place to play right now, getting yesterday’s start only when Kinsler was scratched shortly before gametime with a stiff back.
There’s a multi-layered analysis on the subject of where Profar fits in 2013, and Andrus and Kinsler are big parts of that discussion. But this isn’t the time for that.
It’s about Profar getting added ineradicably to sentences that include Whitey Lockman (1945) and Ted Tappe (1950) (the only other teenagers to homer in their first big league at-bat); Ted Kazanski (1953) and Johnny Callison (1958) (the only other teenagers with at least two extra-base hits in their big league debut); fellow Willemstad, Curacao native Andruw Jones (the last player younger than Profar to hit a home run and a double in a big league game); Bryce Harper (who, like Profar, debuted this season at 19 years and 195 days of age); Ivan Rodriguez (both the youngest position player to appear for the Rangers and the youngest to homer before Profar’s debut); and lefthanders David Clyde and Wilson Alvarez (the only younger Rangers in franchise history).
And Adrian Beltre. When Profar destroyed a low-and-in, 2-1 offering from Zach McAllister, leading off the third inning, he became the youngest player to hit a Major League home run since Beltre’s seventh homer, which came on September 25 at the end of his rookie season in 1998, when he was age 19 and 171 days, and Profar was five.
I’m pretty sure that was Beltre’s voice from the dugout that punctuated the ambient sound when the ball rocketed off Profar’s bat. And that Profar being around Beltre this month could be even more important than him being around Andrus.
Washington played Andrus virtually every day as a rookie, but that was the blueprint. This is very different, and I’d be surprised to see Profar in the lineup any more than maybe once a week for Andrus defensively and once a week for Kinsler defensively, and maybe not even that while playoff positioning is still on the line.
But Washington also said a few weeks ago that he was only going to use Joe Nathan in save situations – and that lasted until Nathan’s next appearance. Wash has shown that, in some circumstances, he’s willing to adapt. Whether Profar will have enough opportunities this month to force the manager to reconsider his plans for the teenager is no lock, but stranger things have happened.
As for yesterday, it was a ridiculously awesome moment, one that hopefully even those focused on vigorously debating Nelson Cruz’s UZR and Range Factor could appreciate. If it had happened in Texas, we’d have a thicker stack of photographs to preserve the moment, but the video will last, as will the memory of the swing and the trajectory and the sprint-trot and the smile and the game-ending face full of Barbasol.
The opposite-field double that followed on Sunday may eventually recede from memory, and the two flyouts certainly will. And for now so will the reality that Profar is actually more powerful from the right side of the plate, in fact significantly so, at least based on the numbers he put together at Hickory in 2011 and Frisco in 2012.
Clubs that got older when he moved on.
Texas, on the other hand, got younger this weekend, and we got a mind-blowing peek at what the next brand of this franchise may look like.
But what happened on Sunday was just one small part of one September ballgame, and accordingly the fact that that old commercial suggesting “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” was run out there by Head & Shoulders will fall just short of prompting me to roll out the trite punch line you know I’m dying to.