MILWAUKEE – The baseball that Anthony Alford hit 405 feet for his first major-league hit will soon be headed home.
Alford’s mother, Lawanda, lives in Hattiesburg Miss., where she has collected souvenirs from her son’s sports career for years. Last December, however, she lost everything in a house fire. In a way, that loss makes this baseball even more special.
“It’ll be the start of a new collection,” Alford said.
When Alford first made contact with the ball, he thought it had a chance to leave Miller Park. Centre field is deep in Milwaukee, though, and this way he gets to send the baseball home.
“I probably wouldn’t have gotten it back if it was a home run,” he said. “I figured with the luck I had it might have got caught, but I’m just so happy that it hit off the wall and I was able to get my first big-league hit.”
Alford made his MLB debut Friday, when the Blue Jays called him up all the way from double-A at a time they were short-handed. With Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki expected to return to the lineup this weekend, the Blue Jays will need to send two players down. Considering that Alford has played just 33 games at double-A, he looks like a likely candidate to be demoted, but even if that does happen, he’ll return to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats with a big-league hit to his name.
“He smoked it. That’s a good way to get it,” manager John Gibbons said. “Who knows how long he’s going to be here with those other guys coming back, so you want to get that one out of the way.”
Not long after Alford collected his first MLB hit, reliever Danny Barnes picked up his first win at the MLB level. He didn’t keep any souvenirs to commemorate the occasion, “just the memory.” Still, there’s no mistaking the importance of Barnes’ contribution: five outs of relief, including two fifth-inning strikeouts to help the Blue Jays escape a jam.
“It’s better than coming in in a blowout or something,” Barnes said. “But any win’s good.”
Like Barnes, Alford downplayed his own accomplishment in the aftermath of the Blue Jays’ 4-3 win over the Brewers.
“Winning the game, I feel like, is way more important,” he said. “Just to experience that and get my first hit is something I’ll always remember.”
Alford had played in three games over the weekend, appearing as a starter, a pinch-hitter and a defensive replacement. He made a couple of nice catches in the outfield, but wanted to contribute to the team offensively, too.
“I wasn’t so much worried about the hit,” he said. “I was worried about coming out, helping the team and trying to help them get a win. Just do my part, whether it was backing up that day and cheering on my teammates, coming in pinch-running, pinch-hitting, starting — whatever it was, I just wanted to help the team.”
Alford did help the team, and in the process he started a new collection for his mother.
“I think she’s going to be real excited,” he said. “I can just imagine her sitting and screaming at the TV now. I’m just proud that I can make her happy in some kind of way, show her that all of the hard work and sacrifices that she made are starting to pay off.”