DETROIT — Akil Baddoo finally had his “Welcome to the big leagues” moment. It took an entire Spring Training, a team flight north to Detroit, and a few steps towards the vast outfield at Comerica Park to get there.
“It is really big,” Baddoo said, his eyes widening as he recalled it later Wednesday morning with reporters.
Finally, the thus-far unflappable Baddoo could soak in what he just accomplished over the past six weeks.
“I was just living it up,” Baddoo said, “just enjoying every second of it, just taking a deep breath in and realizing, ‘All right, you’re here now. Now, let’s play. You have a job. Let’s take care of business.’”
Twenty-three months and one elbow surgery after Baddoo played his last regular-season game for Class A Advanced Fort Myers in the Twins farm system, the 22-year-old outfielder and the club’s No. 24-ranked prospect is on the Tigers’ Opening Day roster. His performance in Spring Training, including five home runs and 10 walks in 21 games, left Detroit with no choice.
It was a roster problem, but a welcome one. It was also a reward for good scouting on limited data. That’s always an issue in the Rule 5 Draft, but moreso after a lost Minor League season.
“It was a little bit of a gamble, obviously,” general manager Al Avila said. “Really, the A-ball thing was not the issue. It was that he hadn’t played in two years. Our scouting reports were actually really good in that some of our guys felt that he might be able to handle it, because he was very athletic, very toolsy. And physically, he doesn’t look like your typical A-ball guy that’s a little bit skinnier and needs to grow into his body still.
“The other thing [scouts] told me was that his makeup was really strong and he was a really outgoing, personable guy that went about his business with a lot of self-confidence. Quite frankly, part of the thing about being in the big leagues is feeling that you belong, having no fear.”