NEW YORK -- On Aug. 17, 2013, Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud became the 18,111th player to appear in the Majors, yet "everyone on the field congratulated me, and I want to keep that ritual going." Little did he know he'd be doing it in Game 3 of the World Series.
Royals top prospectRaul Mondesi, whose highest experience level was 81 games in Double-A this year, debuted with a fifth-inning pinch-hit strikeout against Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Mondesi's oddity offered a small measure of levity in a 9-3 loss that reduced the Royals' Series lead to 2-1.
Mondesi -- ranked as the No. 33 prospect in baseball -- became the first player in the modern World Series, which began in 1903 as a contest of the National and American Leagues, to debut in the Fall Classic. And if you count previous battles for baseball's grand champion, it had been 115 years since a catcher could legitimately say, "Welcome to the big time," in a World Series.
"When I went to bat, Alcides Escobar [the on-deck hitter] said when I was going to go to the plate, 'Get ready … and congratulations,' and their catcher [d'Arnaud] said, 'Hey, congratulations,'" said Mondesi, who took a ball on a 97-mph fastball on the first pitch then struck out on three more heaters -- 96 that he foul-tipped, 96 that he took and 98 that he whiffed at.
What about Bug?
Some have disputed Mondesi's claim to fame as the first to debut in a World Series, arguing the case for one James Wear "Bug" Holliday, who played in one game in the 1885 postseason series between the NL's Chicago White Stockings and American Association's St. Louis Browns.
MLB official historian John Thorn, witnessing Friday night's pinch-hit performance for the record books, explained that Holliday's debut is not considered the "first."
"Bug Holliday was the first man ever to debut in a World Series before ever appearing in a Major League Baseball contest," Thorn said. "The circumstance is that in 1885, the World Series was a traveling caravan with lots of remote sites. It was not just between home and visitor.
"Chicago found itself away from home with an injured player and they recruited this sandlot player to fill in, and that was Holliday."
Holliday, 18 at the time, went 0-for-4 in his singular contest in that series, which ended in a disputed 3-3-1 tie. Thorn explained: "But lots of conflicting evidence, and people in St. Louis, maintain that they were jobbed out of that World Series. So the dispute between Chicago and St. Louis is not a recent thing."
While what's considered the modern World Series is between two leagues that survived baseball's early days, Thorn said the American Association was a Major League and the Browns were "a formidable rival" that was in many folks' minds baseball's best team during that period.
Before the Royals tapped him for World Series use, Mondesi -- whose dad, Raul, played 13 seasons but never appeared in the Fall Classic -- was in the instructional program in Surprise, Ariz., trying to increase his chances of making the Majors.
Escobar is entrenched at shortstop, the position Mondesi plays. When a reporter relayed to him Holliday's gap between the Series and his regular-season debut, Mondesi gave a "I'm not Bug Holliday" smile.
"Next year, I've got to be prepared and be ready. If they bring me to the World Series, that means to me I've got a chance to be here next year," said Mondesi, who said he and his father -- coaching Little Leaguers in his native Dominican Republic -- spoke by phone before the game and laughed at the strange circumstance their sport has wrought.
"If they give me a chance, I've got to be ready," Mondesi said. "I know it's hard, but shortstop is a position I've been playing my whole life. I've started playing second base now."
Whatever it takes to beat Bug's four-year wait to reach the big leagues a second time.