HOUSTON (AP) — New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone vividly remembers the poise and confidence a 16-year-old Jasson Domínguez displayed when he watched him take batting practice at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic in 2019.
“Right then he got your attention,” Boone said. “It was like, it’s a 16-year-old kid (and) you see the skill set right in front of you. He had that kind of easy smile to him, handles himself really well.”
Domínguez wowed everyone Friday night, hitting a two-run homer off Houston ace Justin Verlander in his first major league at-bat.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Boone said. “That’s a way to announce your presence with authority.”
At just 20 years, 206 days old, Domínguez became the youngest Yankees player to homer in his first career game. He was the first Yankees player to go deep in his initial big league at-bat since Aaron Judge on Aug. 13, 2016.
After Domínguez swatted his opposite-field home run to the short porch in left off a three-time Cy Young Award winner twice his age, TV cameras panned to his family, who screamed and jumped around after watching the ball leave the yard for a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
“I knew it was going to be a lot of different feelings finally stepping on the field,” Domínguez said. “I mentioned my dream coming true right in front of me and I was able to connect there for that hit and it ended up being a homer. So my mind is flying away.”
Four years after Boone saw him taking batting practice as a teenager, the highly touted prospect was a huge hit in his big league debut. The switch-hitting outfielder and another promising youngster, catcher Austin Wells, were called up from the minors by the last-place Yankees when rosters expanded Friday.
“Everyone’s excited for them and excited to see them,” Boone said before the game. “Both (are) talented guys who earned this opportunity, and looking forward to watching them go spread their wings and continue to develop and hopefully see some good things.”
Domínguez is expected to be the team’s everyday center fielder after Harrison Bader was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds, and Boone said Wells will also play a lot over the last month of the season. They were both in the starting lineup Friday night, with Domínguez batting fifth and Wells seventh.
“When I heard the news, it was a special moment,” Domínguez said in Spanish through a translator. “Just to be here, very excited. Happy to be right here today, and it’s a special day.”
Wells is regarded more for his bat than his defense, but he’s hoping to show he can be a valuable contributor in both areas in the majors. He singled off Verlander in his first plate appearance and finished 1 for 4.
“I’m here to do that as well and play and help the team win,” he said before the game. “So, that’s my goal and if I can do it in any way, I’ll do it any way.”
Expectations have been high for Domínguez since he received a $5.1 million bonus when he signed with the Yankees. His unique combination of strength and speed at such a young age earned him a catchy nickname: The Martian.
But he said he doesn’t feel any added pressure because of that.
“I haven’t really been paying too much attention to all that, all the comments and all the information about me,” he said. “I’m not much on social media. I’m not reading a lot of the different articles that are written. I just try to focus on what I can do and try to play my game and better myself so that I can fulfill whatever expectation there is being the best I can be.”
Domínguez became the youngest player to appear in a game for the Yankees since 19-year-old pitcher José Rijo in July 1984 — and the youngest position player since 20-year-old outfielder Stan Javier in April 1984.
Boone is certainly aware of the expectations people have for Domínguez and believes he’ll live up to them.
“I think he’s going to be a really good player,” Boone said. “I really do. (He’s) not a finished product. And we’ll see how his journey goes. He’s obviously a very young man, super talented. I think when we look up in several years, we’re going to see a really good player in front of us and he gets to start to write that script, in the big leagues anyway, starting today.”
Domínguez joined the team after playing just nine games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He hit .419 with two doubles and 10 RBIs there after batting .254 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs in 109 games for Double-A Somerset.
The 24-year-old Wells hit .254 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 33 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was a first-round draft pick out of Arizona in 2020.
Domínguez had a bunch of friends and family members in Houston for Friday night’s game, including his mother and father and some aunts and uncles.
He said he’s always dreamed of playing in the majors, but he tries to focus on the present rather than worry too much about the future.
“I concentrate a lot on my day to day and on what I need to do to keep improving or if there’s a certain skill that I’ve got to improve,” he said. “So, to me, I try to keep it very simple. But now we’re here in the big leagues and now I have a chance to taste some of the league and try to keep learning from it.”
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By KRISTIE RIEKEN – AP Sports Writer www.yumasun.com
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