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‘It was an 0-2 count’: Giants remember their first homers, when their careers turned

Stephen Vogt. Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The names come easy. They rattle them off like studious second-graders doing multiplication tables.

“Joe Kelly.”

“Livan Hernandez.”

“Matt Andriese.”

Yes, Stephen Vogt, Pablo Sandoval and Tyler Austin remember their first home run and whom they victimized. Yes, they can recite most details as if they were 22 again.

Nights like Monday, when Tyler Beede recorded his first career win and then first career beer shower as a Giant, have a tendency to resurrect these memories, a first victory doubling as a time machine.

“That’s the nice part about the beer showers for first hits and wins and saves and all that, is it brings you back to your debut and reminds you of that feeling when you first get to the big leagues and first taste success and how awesome it is,” Vogt told KNBR on Tuesday, before the Giants played the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. “It’s a great reminder every time someone gets that accomplishment.”

For a young Vogt, a first career home run may as well have been a first career Mega Millions winning ticket. Home run? Try a single.

He came up with Tampa, and his debut season of 2012 was distressing. Zero for 25. He was then traded to Oakland early the next season, and he didn’t return to the majors until late June of 2013. Zero for seven to begin his season. And then …

“June 26. I’m 0-for-32,” said Vogt, whose first homer was his first hit, too. “It’s been a long time since I had made my debut. Then to get another chance … it was an 0-2 count. I remember stepping out, just saying to myself, here we go again. I took a deep breath, just said have fun.

“You work your whole life to be here. Just have fun. I stepped back in. Fortunately [Kelly] made a mistake and I didn’t mess it up.”

It took Game 12 for Sandoval to earn that relief. Tim Lincecum was on the mound and fighting for his first career Cy Young award.

“1-1, tie game,” Sandoval began. “Was back-to-back homers 2008 at home against Livan Hernandez. Fastball away. Almost hit the foul pole.”

Sandoval followed Bengie Molina’s blast. The Giants would get Lincecum his 15th win of the season in that Aug. 27, 2008 game.

Sandoval smiled as he remembered how much beer covered him in the aftermath.

“They get you good,” the 32-year-old said. “Back in the day, so many veterans, Omar Vizquel, Rich Aurilia, Barry Zito, Randy Winn, Dave Roberts. All those guys, they get you good.”

Austin’s struggle was to break through to the majors, milling about the Yankees’ organizational ladder from 2010 until he finally got his chance in 2016. His opportunity came alongside Aaron Judge, both debuting Aug. 13, 2016.

He can tell you it was “pretty special” to go back-to-back with Judge in their first career at-bats. He can tell you the pitcher, the date, the “fastball on the outer half of the plate.” Even that it was the hottest game he could remember playing in.

But what the celebration was like? His trip around the bases? The fallout of a moment he had waited his life for?

“To be honest with you, I don’t remember much from that day. It’s kind of all a blur,” said the Giants outfielder.

The moments last, if not the chaos that surround them. And for Vogt, each celebration he shares with Beede, with whomever the Giants call up, reminds him of a feeling he feared he would never experience.

“Big-time relief. Big-time accomplishment,” the catcher remembered. “It was one of those things, nothing really came easy for me in baseball. I always had to work. Why wouldn’t my first hit take a long time to come, too?

“There was just a huge, huge feel of just relief and gratification.”


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