SEATTLE -- Don't let the age fool you. Jefry Marte just turned 24 years old last month, but he waited a long time for this, playing a big role in the Tigers' 5-4 victory over the Mariners on Wednesday afternoon.
He spent 7 1/2 years in the Minor Leagues with three different organizations trying to make his way to the big leagues. He was an 18-year-old rated as a top-100 prospect six years ago in the Mets' system, then went to the A's organization in a trade for Collin Cowgill.
He took a chance as a 23-year-old Minor League free agent signing with Detroit, where the corner-infield spots seemed set. He made an impression in Spring Training while Miguel Cabrera worked his way back from ankle surgery, earned his first chance at Triple-A ball in Toledo, then had one of the best months of his career in June, earning International League Player of the Month honors just before Cabrera strained his left calf and landed on the disabled list.
Even though he had rarely ever played first base, his results earned him the call.
"The goal is to work hard every day," Marte said, "because you don't know when the team's going to give you an opportunity to play here."
He got his first Major League start on Wednesday and looked like he belonged. In the process, he helped the Tigers take a much-needed series from the Mariners.
"He had a good day," manager Brad Ausmus said. "That was kind of his reputation coming up from Toledo. He does pretty well against left-handed pitchers. He showed that today."
For now, that's his role, serving as the right-handed-hitting portion of a first-base platoon with well-traveled Marc Krauss. When he realized he was starting Wednesday, he called his family back home in the Dominican Republic and told them to watch on television.
Marte's first Major League hit was a double down the right-field line, scoring Nick Castellanos in the second inning. He took third base on a wild pitch and scored on a Jose Iglesias double.
Two innings later, he came up against Mariners starter J.A. Happ and hit his first Major League homer, a no-doubt drive to left field in the fourth inning.
"I'm so excited, man," Marte said after the game. "First career homer in the big leagues. Man, I don't know what to say."
His teammates didn't say a whole lot to him at first, briefly pretending to give him the silent treatment. Then he got his congratulations.
"It's a great feeling, no doubt," teammate Victor Martinez said from the next locker over, "getting your first hit in the big leagues, your first home run. Every first you get is an experience."
Thanks to a fan who threw the ball back on the field, Marte got that, too.
"I want to give that to my family, my wife, my parents," he said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.