Christopher Morel, the 22-year-old called up to the Majors on Tuesday, predicted he would homer in his first at-bat and delivered.
Christopher Morel called his shot.
He didn’t point his bat toward the bleachers as Babe Ruth did in this same stadium 90 years ago. But Morel, who 24 hours earlier didn’t even know he was getting called up to the Majors, sensed something special was going to happen.
Morel arrived in the Cubs clubhouse at Wrigley Field on Tuesday after getting called up when Jason Heyward was placed on the IL. He had no expectation he would make his MLB debut that same day as the Cubs took on the Pittsburgh Pirates. He wasn’t in the starting lineup and could only watch and learn from the dugout as the Cubs built a 6-0 lead over the Pirates.
He stayed ready, though. In the seventh inning, he told Cubs veteran catcher Willson Contreras that he would hit a home run in his first at-bat, just as Contreras did on June 19, 2016. An inning later, Cubs manager David Ross told him he was going in to pinch-hit.
The 22-year-old who signed with the Cubs at the age of 16 in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic and spent five seasons in the minors was getting his long-awaited break. It came against Pirates right-hander Chase De Jong, who quickly got ahead 0-2 with two sliders. Morel worked the count back to 3-2. Then, on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, De Jong threw Morel a 92 mph fastball up in the zone. A few seconds later, the ball was flying over the left-field bleachers for a home run. Just as he predicted.
Cubs: Christopher Morel’s homer is a moment he’ll always remember
Morel’s mind went blank. He didn’t know what to feel. After tossing his bat back toward the dugout, he forgot to touch first base while high-fiving first base coach Mike Napoli. He raised his arms in the air while rounding third. Contreras rushed out of the dugout. The 30,000 Cubs fans gave him a rousing ovation as he touched home.
“This 24 hours for me, I’m never going to forget this day,” Morel said on the field after the game. “I told David Ross, ‘When you need me, I’m going to be ready’ So this is my time, and I got it.”
The Cubs valued Morel’s versatility. He’s played everywhere around the field in the minors except first base and catcher. He also has some power, hitting seven home runs in 28 games for Double-A Tennessee this season.
He also displayed a quality that’s difficult to quantify: a sense of the moment, of making use of an opportunity. The Cubs gave it to him on Tuesday. He provided the magic.