The wait is over: it’s officially Tovar Time. After tearing it up in spring training and Double-A Hartford, 21-year-old Ezequiel Tovar made his MLB debut on Friday, September 23 against the San Diego Padres. (Brendan Rodgers was placed on the IL to make room.) And in that debut, he also made some other history as the first player in Rockies history to record a hit on the first two pitches of his major league career:
White Sox RHP Dylan Cease also accomplished the feat on May 4, 2021 against the Cincinnati Reds, and they are the only two players to do so since 2000. The last Rockies player to record a hit in his first at-bat was RHP Peter Lambert on June 6, 2019 against the Chicago Cubs. It was such a memorable night for Tovar, who described himself as “a badass” in the postgame interview. And it was still on his mind two days later.
“It started from the first day that I got here — the day before I started — I was just trying to take it all in,” Tovar said with bullpen catcher Aaron Muñoz interpreting. “Even my first game starting and stretching out there, it’s a blessing. Emotions were high, but I definitely won’t forget my first pitch/first hit.”
“I wasn’t expecting anything,” he continued. “I was kind going out there and my approach is the same regardless — to be aggressive. That’s the kind of hitter I am, but I just wanted to enjoy it. It was pretty special.”
In that first game, Tovar went a total of 2-for-4 with a run scored; in three total games over the weekend, he went 3-for-10 with a run scored, two walks and three strikeouts. But when he hits that eagerly-anticipated first MLB home run, he already has plans for who he’s going to give it to.
“My dad, Rodney,” Tovar said without a second of hesitation. “He’s always been there since I was little, taking me to games and stuff.”
The Venezuelan shortstop was signed by the Rockies in 2017 out of a youth academy in the Dominican Republic. He was just 16 when he signed, and he skipped straight to Single-A Boise less than two years later. And five years after that initial signing, Tovar is a major leaguer after tearing through the minors:
Ezequiel Tovar Minor League Stats (courtesy of BB-REF)
|2019||17||-3.6||Grand Junction Rockies||Rookie||18||86||72||12||19||2||2||0||3||4||1||10||17||0.264||0.357||0.347|
|2021||19||-3.7||Salt River Rafters||Fal||25||96||87||10||14||2||0||3||10||2||0||5||20||0.161||0.219||0.287|
|2022||20||-3.8||Hartford Yard Goats||AA||66||295||264||39||84||15||3||13||47||17||3||25||64||0.318||0.386||0.546|
Despite all of his success at the ripe age of 21 (including an invitation to the 2022 MLB Futures Game), Tovar still wasn’t expecting the call-up yet.
“It was definitely a surprise,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for it and wasn’t expecting it. It was like a shock basically when [Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer] told me.”
But he made sure to call all of the important people in his life to share the news.
“Well the first people I called were my family,” Tovar said. “But as far as texts, I texted practically everybody — not just Double-A, but even the guys in Fresno and the Dominican. [I texted] all those players that I know.”
And he’s made sure to connect with guys on the major league team, especially outfielder Yonathan Daza.
“He’s practically my neighbor in Venezuela,” Tovar chuckled.
While his 2022 cup of coffee might be short, Tovar is certainly being looked at as the shortstop of the future behind players such as Troy Tulowitzki and Trevor Story. José Iglesias’ contract is up at the end of this season and unless they re-sign him for some reason... it’s Tovar Time.