New York Yankees: All smiles from Zelous Wheeler

Imagine standing on the field of an enormous stadium, bright lights in your eyes and thousands of people in the stands, about to play in your first Major League Baseball start. It’s a dream that comes true only to the hardworking and passionate few, and for Zelous Wheeler it became a reality on Thursday night in his MLB debut for the New York Yankees against the Minnesota Twins.

Zelous Wheeler is a 27-year old from the little town of Childersburg, Alabama. He was in his eighth season in the minors when he got a call that turned his life around. He was about to start in a doubleheader in Buffalo on Wednesday when he got called up from Triple-A Scranton/ Wilkes- Barre and was told to hop on a plane and head for Minnesota to make his first MLB start. That call is what every baseball player in his position dreams of, a chance to play on the main stage.

Girardi sought to make a quick change after noticing that Yangervis Solarte’s performance has been spiraling downward. He sent Solarte to Triple- A to freshen up a bit, while bringing in Wheeler. Wheeler has a .299 batting average in Scranton/Wilkes- Bare and has batted seven home runs in 66 games this season. He has played in the Milwaukee and Baltimore organizations until 2014.

Wheeler is a great example of never giving up. After being in the minors for eight seasons, it must have felt like he would never catch a break. But when he finally did, he made sure no one forgot about it.

In his second at bat he hit a beautiful homer off Minnesota Twins’ Phil Hughes in the top of the fifth inning, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. That was his first MLB career hit. Talk about first impressions…

As he rounded the bases for the first time in pinstripes, Wheeler was all smiles. After touching home plate he continued into the dugout where his shocked, but ecstatic new teammates greeted him with high fives and cheers.

In the ninth, he made an incredible, but meaningless catch, literally diving into the Yankees’ dugout to grab the ball! It was awesome! And of course we saw that toothy smile from Wheeler afterwards. Unfortunately it was not ruled as a catch because technically he was on the first step of the dugout when he caught the ball, but man, Wheeler really went all out to get that!

It was a night filled with smiles from Wheeler and who could blame him. He impressed (and surprised) a lot of people, being exactly what the Yankees needed to give them a little extra “umph” while trying to “turn things around” as we’ve heard dozens of times from the team and manager Joe Girardi.

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“It’s great to see,” said manager Joe Girardi in a post- game interview. “Talk about a kid who’s persevered for a long time, and to get his opportunity — and his first hit to be a homer and in our bullpen so we get the ball — is kind of special.”

If you thought you would have a hard time remembering his name (kidding) you definitely won’t now after seeing his first MLB performance.

Welcome to the team Zelous!

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