Baseball / Sports

Jorge Soler's father shares moment of home run in first at-bat of big league debut

CINCINNATI -- Timing is everything in baseball, whether it involves swinging the bat or perhaps even staging an auspicious major league debut.

Either way, Jorge Soler certainly knows how to make a favorable first impression.

The Cubs made the decision to elevate the 22-year-old Soler for Wednesday night's 7-5 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park. With a canny sense of timing and a bit of shrewd calculation, Soler launched a 423-foot solo home run to center field in his first at-bat.

"Real, real happy about it. You know, first time in the big leagues, first at-bat ... very excited and happy," Soler said through a team interpreter.

He also had an RBI single in the eighth inning to finish his debut going 2-for-4.

Was he nervous at all?

"The first at-bat I was real tense. But when I hit a home run ... well, I (knew Luis Valbuena) had hit a home run in front of me, so I had to freeze in the moment," Soler said.

"A very well-struck ball ... good for him. And he also had a base hit to drive in a run," manager Rick Renteria said of his new sensation.

Cubs President Theo Epstein was responsible for arranging the time to begin showcasing Soler on the big league stage.

"We're proud of him and think this is the right time to bring him up here," Epstein told reporters via phone from Chicago before the game. "Really, the key to the decision on promoting Soler was that ... (originally) he was going to be a September call-up for us ... mainly because he needs the (added) at-bats. He missed significant time with the hamstring injury and he is someone who needs to play. ... We were looking for the right developmental moment. ... The timing was nice."

Epstein also allowed that the timing and atmosphere are ideal for Soler's coming out party with the Cubs on the road.

"It's not strictly strategic," he said. "(But) we prefer our higher-profile prospects to get a chance to break in on the road so they can keep some of the distractions to a minimum."

For Soler -- wearing No. 68 on the back of his blue Cubs road jersey and a wide smile on his face -- the timing seemed overdue, even at his young age.

"I am so excited. I thank the team for giving me this opportunity," Soler said. "I have been waiting three years for this moment."

He was especially proud to know that his father, Jorge Soler Sr., would be in the stands watching him.

"I feel real proud. All my family was watching the game, especially my father here at the game," Soler said. "I feel real happy and proud about it."

Epstein said he was impressed with how Soler has handled adversity, such as injuries in the second half of his minor league season.

"Instead of getting really down on himself and pouting, he embraced that adversity as an opportunity to get better," Epstein said.

The organization developed a full-body work-up on Soler and "found a new program for him where he could balance his muscle-balance a little bit and his posture a little bit, things we felt would keep him healthy for the long run."

Epstein sounded proud to introduce Soler to Cubs fans who have not had the opportunity to watch him closely.

"The first thing fans will notice about Soler is how impressive he is physically," Epstein said. "He has as good a baseball power body as you will see: 6-4 and put together really well. He looks like an NFL player -- physically intimidating with great athleticism.

"He's not a raw player, despite not having many professional at-bats, because he was born with a very advanced approach at the plate. He recognizes the ball out of the pitcher's hand well. He recognizes spin, he has a good idea of the strike zone. He understands how to work an at-bat."

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