A grin split his face -- and stayed there all the way until he walked out of the clubhouse -- as he joked about how the camera lights made him nervous. He wasn't used to all of this attention, but on Sunday he got it. In the seventh inning, Pirela hit the first big league home run of his career -- a feat he's been thinking about for quite some time now.
"I've been working very hard. I've been waiting for this opportunity because I haven't been playing that much," Pirela said through a translator. "But now that I have the opportunity, I'm really excited that I could contribute and I hope that God allows that I can continue contributing to the team."
Pirela, the Yankees' No. 24 prospect, received some inspiration from teammates Chris Young and Brett Gardner in the fifth inning. Young belted a solo homer to left to tie the game, and then Gardner ripped a three-run shot to right to give the Yankees the lead for good. It was the turning point for the Yankees and starting pitcher CC Sabathia, who surrendered two quick home runs in the first inning.
"[I] saw [my] teammates hit a homer," an elated Pirela said. "I wanted to do the same."
The Yankees have now hit a home run in 14 of their last 16 games dating back to May 22, and in their last six home games, 15 blasts have cleared the fence.
But of all of them, perhaps Pirela's meant a little bit more. There's something about him, manager Joe Girardi said, that guys in the clubhouse are drawn to.
"Seeing him hit his first home run, guys were really excited," Girardi said. "He's one of the guys that they love in there because of his energy and how hard he plays, so it was really good to see."
John Ryan Murphy, Sunday's catcher and one of Pirela's closest friends on the team, said it was a special moment to witness because of the time the duo shared in the Minors.
"It was awesome. I told him after his first at-bat, when he went off the wall [for a double], he had no power," Murphy joked. "He proved me wrong."
Now Pirela will be given the ball, to cherish the moment that had him so excited.
He already has a plan.
"[I'm] going to take it home," he said, "and put it right next to the ball [for my first hit]."
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.