The problem with the dream of making your first big-league start is that reality often has a tendency to get in the way.
Such was the case for Will Smith on Thursday night. Not only did the Kansas City Royals left-hander make his major-league debut, but he did so at Yankee Stadium with Derek Jeter serving as his first batter.
The results: Smith lasted only 3 1/3 innings in the Royals' 8-3 loss, giving up five earned runs and three homers as Ned Yost's plan to call up and start a lefty against the Yankees didn't produce its intended results.
"I was nervous a little bit," Smith later told MLB.com. "You're facing a future Hall of Famer to start your career in Derek Jeter. That was cool, but at the same time, you've still got to go out and make your pitches and get people out."
Smith's fairy tale actually went according to the script for one hitter. Jeter grounded out to the shortstop for the first out of Smith's career. Smith's family — which had traveled from his hometown in Georgia to watch his debut from Yankee Stadium's fancy seats — looked like this:
Alas, the awwww, what a cute family! factor didn't last as long as when teammate Eric Hosmer hit his first big-league homer at Yankee Stadium last season. That's because Curtis Granderson followed Jeter with a home run into the right-field seats and Mark Teixeira drew a walk, setting the table for Smith to face his second eventual Hall of Famer in the inning.
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Watch as A-Rod gets up to no good, starts causing trouble in Smith's neighborhood:
Now look at the reaction from Smith's family. Talk about your buzzkill:
A-Rod's dinger ended a drought of 52 straight at-bats without a homer. He'd later add one off Smith in the third for the 60th two-homer game of his career.
Despite looking less than fresh on the mound during the game, Smith acted like a veteran after it. He held his head high, shook the loss off and took it like a man.
"Just being able to be out there, in the big leagues," Smith told the Kansas City Star. "It doesn't get any better than that. That was the dream part. The outcome wasn't. Bad location. They hit them, and they hit them a long way."
As for his mother Kay, who became a bit of a minor celebrity during the game as she very clearly wore her emotions on her sleeve during her son's outing?
"She was nervous. She's been like that since I was in high school,'' Smith said. ''She and my dad ... my dad used to pace around the stadium. They always get nervous and always will be.''
Smith was ranked the No. 14 prospect in the Royals organization by MLB.com at the beginning of the season. Yost said he'll get the second start of his career next Tuesday against Cleveland and perhaps that's all Smith can ask for. As some diehard Royals fans will remember, the only other Royals pitcher to make his big-league debut in Yankee Stadium was Eduardo Villacis in 2004. Plucked straight from Double-A to fill in for an injured Darrell May, Villacis gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings of work — same as Smith — but never pitched in the big leagues again.
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