CINCINNATI — Devin Mesoraco’s journey to the Major Leagues started June 1, 2007, when he was drafted in the first round with the 15th pick of the Major League Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
That journey ended Thursday, when Mesoraco was called up from the AAA Louisville Bats and placed on the Reds’ 40-man roster.
Now, a new journey has begun.
Since he was a young man, right here in Punxsutawney, Mesoraco has been a standout athlete, but at every new level comes a new question: Can he stand out at this level with the elevated competition?
Fans of a Cincinnati team that won the National League Central last year, but finds itself (NUMBER) games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and out of the playoff race already this season, hope the answer the latest question will be yes.
Even with two standout catchers already at the Major League level in Ramon Hernandez, who is hitting .287 with 11 home runs this season, and Ryan Hanigan, who is hitting a respectable .270 as the backup catcher this season, Cincinnati has still been abuzz all season about the young catcher putting up big numbers in Louisville.
In 120 appearances at Louisville this season before his call-up late Wednesday, Mesoraco hit .289 with 36 doubles and 15 home runs and an OPS of .855.
And, the fact that his defensive game comes just as well-touted as his numbers at the plate do gives those Reds’ fans good reason to be excited about his future.
Mesoraco was thrilled to get the big call, though he admitted there was no actual call involved.
“When I got to the field, they kind of let me know, then,” he said. “The manager kind of pulled everybody aside and told us individually.”
Mesoraco said that although he had to wait until Wednesday afternoon to get the official word, he had been given a hunch that he might get the call, so he was prepared.
“I had a pretty good idea,” he said. “My manager had pulled me aside earlier in the week and given me a pretty good indication, so I had all my stuff packed and ready to go.”
After the Bats’ contest against the Columbus Clippers in Louisville Wednesday, Mesoraco and his teammates who also got the call were Cincinnati-bound.
Mesoraco spent Wednesday’s contest on the bench watching, giving backup catcher James Skelton an opportunity to start.
“I think this is kind of where I imagined I’d be when I was drafted,” Mesoraco said in a phone call on the way to Cincinnati. “It was a long road, but now, I can say that it’s all been worth it.”
Reds’ manager Dusty Baker said Thursday Mesoraco isn’t expected to play immediately, distilling the rumors that he might appear in his first game as Reds’ catcher.
“The first couple of days, he will catch some bullpens, because there are some guys he hasn’t caught,” Baker said. “And there are some he has caught, but not for a long time. So, he’ll be in the bullpen learning ... Right now, we’re going to let him get acclimated to the way we do things. You have to learn the personnel and go over the scouting reports.”
Mesoraco, who has been quietly and humbly awaiting his turn in the Majors, remained humble about the opportunity to learn at the Major League level.
“I don’t see it as a pressure situation,” he said. “I’m coming up to learn, and learn from two good catchers in Ramon and Hanigan. I’m just going to go up and do everything I can to better my game and hopefully improve on it for the future.”
Mesoraco may not have been in Thursday’s lineup, but he did take the field in a different context, warming up the pitcher between innings on one occasion while Hanigan dressed.
Mesoraco summed up his experience Thursday quite simply after the game, saying, “It was just a thrill to be part of my first Major League game. Hopefully, one of many.”
Punxsutawney hopes so, too, Devin.