Rylan Freeman ended up catching rookie J.J. Matijevic’s first career home run, which also doubled as his first major league hit, during Sunday’s series finale versus the Chicago White Sox. The Astros won 4-3.
Matijevic was called up days ago to the Astros from Houston’s Triple A affiliate, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, so getting that ball back was kind of a big deal.
According to Houston Chronicle Astros beat writer Chandler Rome, Matijevic is the first Astro to record a home run as his first career hit since Yordan Alvarez did it on June 9, 2019.
“That was real cool,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Matijevic homering for his first hit.
The 26-year-old, who was playing in his sixth major league game, blew bubbles as he rounded the bases and got a big hug from a delighted José Altuve as he approached the dugout.
“When I was rounding the bases I just took it all in,” Matijevic said. “I wasn’t really thinking anything, but I looked up and I saw all the fans and stuff and I really took it in and it was a special moment.”
J.J. Matijevic is the first Astro to record a home run as his first career hit since Yordan Alvarez did it on June 9, 2019.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) June 20, 2022
🚨JJ Matijevic HOME RUN FOR HIS FIRST BIG LEAGUE HIT omg omg omg omg 🚨
— Sugar Land Space Cowboys (@SLSpaceCowboys) June 20, 2022
Rylan clearly recognized having leverage, explaining that after the catch, an Astros representative asked him what he wanted.
Rylan, a pitcher himself for his high school team, had only one thing in mind: a signed Justin Verlander jersey.
When he was told no dice on that, he then asked for a Yuli Gurriel jersey. That didn’t work out, but Rylan still came out golden, it appears.
In exchange for giving back the ball, Rylan received:
- Six batting practice access tickets
- Jose Altuve autographed baseball
And, wait for it. Yes, the Verlander jersey.
16-year-old Rylan Freeman of Corpus got a signed Justin Verlander jersey for coming up with J.J. Matijevic’s first career homer. Verlander signed it “Nice catch.” Freeman, a pitcher on a high school team that won the 3A state title this month, idolizes Verlander. pic.twitter.com/9Eq1zcjXmu
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) June 20, 2022
Verlander signed it “Nice catch.”
This Astros fan pulled out the negotiation skills after catching J.J. Matijevic’s first HR 😅
✅ 6 tickets to a game
✅ 6 batting practice access tickets
✅ José Altuve autographed baseball
✅ Justin Verlander signed jersey pic.twitter.com/HDWGuQHIWn
— ESPN (@espn) June 20, 2022
This all happening on Father’s Day was quite fitting. Rylan was at the game with his dad, and Matijevic, who was impressed with Rylan’s negotiation skills, gave the ball to his own father.
“I was planning on giving the kid a signed bat because that’s all that I would have wanted,” Matijevic said. “But man, he’s the best negotiator I’ve ever seen.”
Negotiator might just be the beginning.
“Future GM,” said Cleveland Guardians pitcher Anthony Castro.
What would you do if you caught a rookie’s first major league homer?
“If I catch a player’s first home run, I’m asking for a Nespresso,” one person said.
“I would’ve asked for a gas card,” said another.
Others were just here for the snark.
“Bro got more in that trade (than) the Dodgers did for letting go of Yordan Alvarez,” said a user on Twitter.
The Astros bounced back from a 7-0 shutout Saturday to get a 2-1 series win. The victory breaks a tie between Houston manager Dusty Baker and Chicago manager Tony La Russa, giving the 73-year-old Baker a 106-105 edge against the 77-year-old La Russa in regular-season matchups dating to 1996.
Houston is off Monday, but next, they’ll have to get ready to have an empire state of mind.
They’ll open a two-game interleague series with the New York Mets on Tuesday night, followed by a 4-game series against the New York Yankees on their home turf, the Bronx.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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