After battling a labrum injury that cost him most of the 2022 baseball season, former Texas Tech standout Josh Jung had his Major League debut delayed until Friday night when he was finally called up to the show by the Texas Rangers. So maybe he was making up for lost time when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning and belted a solo homer to left-center field in his first big league at bat.
Coming out swinging, the third baseman, who was ranked by most scouting services as the Rangers’ top minor league prospect, waited patiently on a changeup that sat in the middle of the plate and got just enough of the pitch to clear the outfield wall.
That marked the first time a Ranger had homered in his first Major League at-bat since infielder Juricson Profar did so back in 2012. But to Texas Tech fans who cheered Jung on in Lubbock, it came as no surprise.
What’s more, given how Jung had been crushing the ball at AAA, the homer was no shock to Rangers fans either.
Since being able to return to the field following surgery in the spring, Jung had homered six times in just 23 minor league games while batting .273 and driving in 24. That finally earned him a shot with the Rangers and he didn’t disappoint going 2-4 in his debut.
"“Absolutely, I was still nervous,” Jung said after the game. “I was just trying to control my heart rate the whole time. I think that was the biggest key for me tonight, was just keeping the heart rate down. To just breathe, soak it all in, and I just got some good pitches to hit.”"
As a Red Raider, Jung was not necessarily known for his power, though he did hit 33 bombs in 191 games at Tech. That led some to question whether he would be able to hit for enough power to be a star big-league third baseman. While he has a long way to go to prove that he is indeed a power hitter at the game’s top level, his 30 minor league homers in 153 total games is an indication that he’s found his power stroke with the wooden bats.
In the seventh inning, Jung also blooped a single into right field off of a nasty side-armed pitcher, a sign that he is locked in at the plate as even when he doesn’t make loud contact, his hits seem to find a place to land.
Also stealing a base in the 7th inning, Jung became just the second player in Rangers’ history to hit a homer and steal a base in his major league debut joining Anderson Tejeda in 2020 (according to TexasRangers.com).
"“[It was] goosebumps, honestly, with the first about or even when my name got announced before the game during the lineups,” Jung said. “I’m just kind of reminded like this is the start of the journey that I want to be on, the track that I want to go. So it was pretty cool. It’s pretty special. But the biggest thing for me tonight was just breathe, breathe through it all. It’s just crazy honestly. It’s a good start. Just gotta keep going.”"
Ultimately, the Rangers would fall to the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 but that didn’t matter as much as what Jung did. That’s because, in a lost season for the Rangers, one that has seen them lose any hope of playoff contention since July, Jung’s debut has provided the organization’s fans a much-needed jolt of energy and optimism as the best prospect the team has produced in the last several years has finally arrived. And he made sure to make his presence known right off the bat.