SEATTLE – Manager Eric Wedge told Dustin Ackley to have fun.
He expected nothing more, nothing less of the Seattle Mariners’ highly regarded prospect before his major league debut Friday night at Safeco Field.
“Just have fun with it,” Wedge told Ackley. “Go out there and play the way you’ve played. Don’t try to do anything more. You’re one of 25, everyone here has a job to do and you’re no different.”
The idea, Wedge said, was for Ackley to treat his major league unveiling – in front of 34,345 and the Philadelphia Phillies – no differently than he did any game he played this year with the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers.
From the beginning, though, it was different.
Ackley spent a half-hour before batting practice talking with a larger-than-usual group of reporters. During that time, workers testing the Safeco Field video boards flashed “Ack Attack” across the screen, hoping there would be opportunity to use it before the night was over.
There was an energy to Friday night’s crowd, and nobody was cheered before the game as loudly as Ackley when his name was announced.
In his first big-league plate appearance – against All-Star Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt – Ackley got a standing ovation from the crowd, then he put together an at-bat just like those at Tacoma.
Oswalt got ahead of him 0-2, including a called second strike by umpire Doug Eddings that looked well outside the strike zone, and fouled off another tough pitch from Oswalt.
With the fourth pitch he saw, Ackley slapped it between Oswalt’s legs and into center field for a single. Ackley got another standing O as he stood on first base.
That would be his only hit in four at-bats.
It didn’t matter to Wedge or Ackley what the final totals would be, only that he put together quality at-bats and play well in the field in his first game.
“I don’t expect him to come up here and get four hits the first night,” Wedge said. “Just come up here and have good at-bats. Have fun competing, do what you do, focus on yourself and let the rest take care of itself. Make sure your mind’s in the moment and you’re taking care of business.”
Ackley wasn’t concerned with expectations, even though they are lofty for a player who was the second overall draft pick in 2009. He batted .303 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs this year at Tacoma, including a .355 average since May 2.
“I expect what I expect from myself every day – go out there and give it my best,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You might feel great and not get the hits. I’m just going to try to have good at-bats. Whether that (results in) hits or hard-hit balls or long at-bats, I’m going to take that for how it is.”
Ackley has long been considered ready for the big leagues as a hitter, but the Mariners sent him to the minor leagues during spring training in order to refine his play at second base.
“I feel better than I ever have,” he said. “I had a lot of double plays and a lot of different situations where I was able to get comfortable. I feel great there.”