Minneapolis — The Tigers may have to give the visiting clubhouse attendants a little extra in the tip jar when they leave here on Tuesday. They made a bit of a mess in the shower area Sunday.
“They put me in a cart, a laundry cart and they rolled me into the shower,” said Tigers rookie Sergio Alcantara, through interpreter Carlos Guillen “Then they hit me with everything they could find – shampoo, talcum powder, even mayo.
“It was a nice experience in there.”
And, bonus, Alcantara didn’t have to go through the obligatory “beer shower” alone. Alcantara homered in his first big-league at-bat, hitting the second pitch he saw from Twins starter Rich Hill. And, in the Tigers’ 10-8 win, Kyle Funkhouser picked up his first big-league win, and Bryan Garcia earned his first big-league save.
It was a flurry of beer showers.
“They took care of us,” said Funkhouser, who pitched the seventh and eighth innings. “It was pretty cool, a pretty good feeling. The older guys do a really good job. They take care of us.”
Funkhouser said both he and Garcia got game balls, but they may have to fight over the authenticated lineup card.
For Alcantara, though, so many emotions. Not the least, his uncle, Anderson Hernandez, had announced his retirement from professional baseball the day before.
“It was kind of a present for him,” Alcantara said of his home run. “We had a good talk. He gave everything he had to the game and he had to retire. I am happy to follow in his path and he’s really happy for everything I’ve been doing. He’s super happy for me.”
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Hernandez, 37, a middle infielder, made his professional debut in the Tigers’ system in 2001. He spent 14 years in professional baseball, including parts of six seasons in the big leagues, four with the Mets.
He was most popular and productive playing for TigresdelLicey in the Dominican League. That’s how Alcantara fell in love with baseball, watching his uncle and rooting for Licey.
“That was my team,” he said.
Figuratively when he was little and literally the last couple of winters. Alcantara and Hernandez were teammates on Licey in 2017 and 2018.
Alcantara, who was brought off the taxi squad on Saturday when Niko Goodrum went on the injured list (oblique strain), got wide-eyed when he saw his name on the lineup card Sunday, starting at third base.
“I knew I had to stay calm and stop thinking about it,” he said. “Just told myself to take it easy and try to take it like any other game back in the DR or back in the minor leagues. And that’s what I did.”
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His home run caused quite a stir in the Tigers dugout, especially considering Alcantara had hit just nine home runs in 2,611 minor league plate appearances. Acting manager Lloyd McClendon joked that he fainted.
“I don’t think anybody in the dugout was expecting a home run in his first at-bat,” McClendon said. “Good for that young man. He’s worked hard to get here.”
Catcher Grayson Greiner, whose home run broke a 7-7 tie, was all smiles talking about Alcantara’s blast.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I don’t think he’s been known for his power. He’s a small guy, but he hits the second pitch he sees in the big leagues out of the park. I bet he blacked out running the bases. I bet he doesn’t remember a whole lot.”
He became just the ninth Tiger ever to hit a home run in his first big-league at-bat and his phone was blowing up when he got back to the clubhouse.
“My family was able to watch the game in the Dominican Republic,” he said. “I think they are more happy about it than I am. They’ve waited for this moment for so many years. They know how hard I’ve been working.
“Just thank God I got the opportunity to be here.”