Hassan relieved to come through with first MLB hit

Hassan relieved to come through with first MLB hit
June 1, 2014, 10:45 pm
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BOSTON -- The cameras had turned their attention elsewhere in the Red Sox clubhouse, their sound canned for that night's Hometown Kid Makes Good packages. In their wake stood Alex Hassan, emotionally drained but happy.

The 26-year-old who grew up in Milton, Mass. and played Wiffle Ball in his family's backyard in the shadow of a mini Green Monster and an old Citgo sign had just realized a lifelong dream: He made his Major League debut at Fenway Park and notched his first big-league hit, a single in the fourth inning of a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay.

"Just relieved, man. You know?" he said with a weary smile. "It was crazy, but it was fun."

The dream, of course, always had two parts. The first, the getting there, was an accomplishment with astronomical odds that required two-decades or so of practice. That happened Friday when he was called up to provide the Red Sox with outfield depth.

The second, the doing something, is what weighed on Hassan Sunday.

He took batting practice at 11:00 a.m. out on the field, two-and-a-half hours before first pitch. Then he took some more hacks in the cage behind the home team's dugout with Babson coach and lefthanded batting practice pitcher Matt Noone to prepare for Tampa lefty Erik Bedard.

If there were nerves -- and how couldn't there be? -- Hassan worked them out. He was stayed busy. He tried to keep to the routine that had helped make him a career .285/.393/.426 hitter in the minors.
His first at-bat didn't do much to relieve his pent-up desire for a positive result. With the bases loaded and two out, he watched three strikes go by to end the first inning.

It wasn't until the fourth inning, after fouling off two pitches from Bedard and working a full count, that Hassan caught a high changeup and punched it into centerfield for that feeling surged through him.


"It was a relief certainly to get the first hit," Hassan said, "but at that point in the game, I think it was 0-0 and Jonny [Gomes] just got a hit, I got a hit, and Jackie [Bradley Jr.] had a great at-bat that inning. Brock [Holt] obviously with the double. I think it was initially a relief, and then I was focused on scoring a run."

After Gomes scored on a Jonathan Herrera sacrifice fly, Hassan and Bradley Jr. came around on one of Holt's MLB record-tying four doubles in the game.
Hassan finished 1-for-3 and combined with his Pawtucket Red Sox roommate Garin Cecchini (1-for-2 with a double and RBI) as the first two Sox rookies to record their first major-league hits in the same game since Steve Dillard and Andy Merchant did it on September 28, 1975.
Since Hassan was the first -- Cecchini had his hit in the seventh inning -- it spun memories for his Sox teammates.
"That's pretty cool," Gomes said. "Seems like we've been talking about our first hits and where we were and how the game has changed and stuff. Mine was in 2003 and I remember it like it was yesterday. It's pretty cool. To be able to do it here at Fenway Park, it's a special day for those guys."

Asked about his first hit, Gomes replied without hesitation: "David Wells in Yankee Stadium."

"It kind of makes you reminisce on all your firsts and just how excited they're going to be," said Jon Lester of Hassan and Cecchini. "I'm sure as soon as they get on the bus, they're going to call mom and dad, and that's the cool part about this game. To watch these guys come up, go to spring training with them, and seeing them come up and do this stuff and help out the team. It's always big."

Like Cecchini, Hassan was given the ball that he hit after the game. He said it would be a gift for his parents, Kathy and David, who -- as Lester predicted -- Hassan planned to call as soon as he left the clubhouse.

They're the ones who turned their backyard into a miniature version of the Fens, who watched their son as he played for Rotary Club in Milton's American Little League at Cunningham Park, and for the Spartans AAU program, and for Milton's American Legion Post 114, BC High and Duke.

If Hassan told his parents what he told the cameras, he told them Sunday was "probably the most fun I've had on a baseball field."

And it would probably tug at whatever emotions he had left.