By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
Mitch Moreland kept going back to one word to describe the situation he finds himself in, “unbelievable.”
The former Amory and Mississippi State star is in the World Series, a rookie starting first baseman for the Texas Rangers in Wednesday night’s Game 1, his 57th Major League game.
It has to be unbelievable at times, maybe even when Moreland is facing Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain. Or maybe when he’s standing at his defensive spot at first base and Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez is standing three feet away. Or maybe when he came in to pinch hit and singled off of Mariano Rivera.
Or maybe when he’s high-fiving All-Star teammate Josh Hamilton in front of nearly 52,000 fans in Arlington.
“It’s unbelievable. If you would have told me this in July, I couldn’t have imagined it,” Moreland said via phone interview from his San Francisco hotel room Tuesday night. “I don’t know what to really expect but some of the guys who have been here say, ‘Don’t take it for granted. In your first year you’re going to the World Series. It doesn’t happen every day.’ So it’s definitely a great experience, just unbelievable. I’m just trying to not take anything for granted and make the most of it, just take it all in.”
Called up to start at first base against the Oakland Athletics on July 29 in Arlington, he singled in his first career at-bat in a 2-for-4 debut. Moreland played in 47 games during the regular season, hit .255 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs and walked 25 times.
He found an even bigger groove in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. When the World Series ticket was punched Friday in Arlington in a 6-1 win in Game 6, he finished the ALCS atop the team in batting average at .389, also the best average of any player of the four championship teams.
The average included a 7-for-18 showing with three RBIs, two walks and three runs. His on-base percentage was .450, second to Josh Hamilton’s .536. Curtis Granderson’s .520 for New York was the only other average better than Moreland’s in the ALCS or NLCS.
Numbers crunched, “unbelievable” begins to lose it’s fit. It’s not unbelievable. This guy belongs.
Moreland used the word “belong” twice in a 15-minute phone conversation, neither time as a means of self-promotion.
“I don’t pay attention to the stats, but you do get in grooves,” he said. “You’re in better spots than others sometimes. After you have a little success or you get comfortable versus some of the pitchers, it definitely makes it a little more, I guess you would say, a little easier for you to go in there and realize that’s where you belong, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
It may have been unbelievable at first, playing on the same field on the same level as the Jeters, Longorias, Pedroias and Hamiltons. It was only unbelievable briefly though.
A 2-for-4 showing on opening night didn’t take long to convince Moreland himself or the Texas Rangers that the 25-year-old is for real. That night he was also a foot away from a home run to deep center that Coco Crisp crashed into the wall to catch.
“During the regular season, the first couple of times we played some of those guys, it was pretty cool. I’m over at first base and they come to first and they’re standing beside me, yeah it was a neat feeling,” Moreland said. “This is what I’ve dreamed of my whole life and here I am; I’m on the same field as these guys.
“After you get out there and get playing, you realize that you are on the same field as them and you’re playing against them, you belong there and it’s just another team we’ve got to beat.”
Brandon Speck (Brandon.Speck@monroe360.com) is sports editor of the Monroe Journal and a frequent contributor to the Daily Journal.