HOUSTON (AP) — New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone vividly recalls the attitude and confidence 16-year-old Jasson Domínguez displayed while teaching him batting practice at the team’s academy in Dominican Republic in 2019 Republic watched.
“That’s when he caught your attention,” Boone said. “It was like it was a 16-year-old boy and you can see the skills right in front of you. He had such an easy smile and he got along really well.”
Domínguez wowed everyone on Friday night when he hit a two-run home run against Houston ace Justin Verlander in his first major league batter.
At just 20 years and 206 days, Domínguez became the youngest Yankees player to hit a home run in his first career game. He was the first Yankees player since Aaron Judge on August 13, 2016 to hit deep in his first big league bat.
After Dominguez hit his home run into the opposing field On the short porch to the left of a three-time Cy Young Award winner, twice his age, TV cameras panned to his family, who screamed and jumped after watching the ball leave the court and come along in the first inning 3-0 lead.
Four years after Boone watched him practice batting as a teenager, the much-touted prospect was a smash hit on his big-league debut. The switch-hitting outfielder and another promising youngster, catcher Austin Wells, were called up by the bottom-ranked Yankees from the Minors as the rosters expanded on Friday.
“Everybody’s excited for them and excited to see them,” Boone said before the game. “Both are talented guys who deserve this chance and look forward to watching them spread their wings, develop and hopefully see some good things.”
Domínguez is expected to become the team’s everyday midfielder after the Cincinnati Reds’ Harrison Bader was barred from the waivers, and Boone said Wells will also play heavily in the final month of the season. They were both on the starting lineup on Friday night, with Domínguez finishing fifth and Wells seventh.
“When I heard the news, it was a special moment,” Domínguez said through a translator in Spanish. “Just to be here, I’m very excited. I am happy to be here today and it is a special day.”
Wells is valued more for his racquet than his defense, but he’s hoping to show he can be a valuable contributor in both areas in the majors.
“I’m here too to do that and play and help the team win,” he said. “So that’s my goal and if there’s any way I can get there, I’ll do it any way.”
Expectations were high for Domínguez as 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 didn’t feel any extra pressure as a result.
“I wasn’t really paying much attention to all of this, all of the comments and all of the information about me,” he said. “I’m not on social media much. I don’t read many of the different articles that are written. I’m just trying to focus on what I can do and try to play my game and improve so I can live up to everyone’s expectations of getting the best out of myself.”
Dominguez would become the youngest player to play in a game for the Yankees since 19-year-old pitcher Jose Rijo in July 1984 — and the youngest positional player since 20-year-old outfielder Stan Javier in April 1984.
Boone is certainly aware of the expectations people have of Domínguez and believes he will live up to them.
“I think he’s going to be a really good player,” Boone said. “I really do. (He is) not a finished product. And we’ll see how his journey goes. He’s obviously a very young man, super talented. I think if we look up in a few years we’re going to see a really good player ahead of us and he can start writing that script from today, at least in the big leagues.”
Domínguez joins the team after playing just nine games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He hit .419 there with two doubles and 10 RBIs after hitting .254 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs in 109 games for Double-A Somerset.
24-year-old Wells beat Verlander on his first record appearance. Wells hit .254 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 33 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was a first-round draft pick from Arizona in 2020.
Domínguez had a number of friends and family in Houston for Friday night’s game, including his mother and father and several aunts and uncles.
He said he’s always dreamed of playing in the majors, but he’s trying to focus on the present rather than worrying too much about the future.
“I’m very focused on my day-to-day life and what I need to do to keep improving or if I need to improve a certain skill,” he said. “So for me I try to keep it very simple. But now we’re here in the big leagues and now I have a chance to get a taste of the league and try to keep learning from it.”
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