Culture / Sporting Life

Kyle Tucker Immediately Makes the Astros More Dangerous in October

Jose Altuve Shows Real Love for Difference Making Rookie on Day One

BY // 07.08.18

This is how it sometimes happens in baseball. On a random Saturday in July. One minute, everything’s moving along — you’re cutting the grass, or heading to the grocery store, or making dinner plans. The next… everything’s suddenly a little different.

Kyle Tucker’s been called up to the big leagues.

It sounds a little comical. Especially when you’re talking about baseball’s reigning world champions. But it’s also true. Things are different for these already 60-win Houston Astros now. The Astros have added a better bat than any of the other legit contenders will be able to get on the trade market (unless one of them lands Manny Machado).

What Astros third baseman Alex Bregman once dubbed the Back-to-Back Tour is suddenly gaining serious steam.

Don’t let the fact that he still looks like a teenager and chews gum like an elementary schooler who’s just discovered the stuff fool you. Kyle Tucker is an impact bat. At any level.

With Tucker, Houston suddenly has a deeper, more dangerous lineup. The Yankees and Red Sox front offices have no doubt been anticipating this move. In truth, Tucker showed that he was ready to face Major League pitching in spring training.

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His arrival at Minute Maid Park this summer was only a matter of timing.

The timing happens to be July 8, an otherwise ordinary steamy summer day in Houston. Tucker starts by striking out in his first three MLB at-bats, but he could have finished the day with a Golden Sombrero and everything would have been better than fine.

Don’t let the fact that he still looks like a teenager and chews gum like an elementary schooler who’s just discovered the stuff fool you. Kyle Tucker is an impact bat. At any level.

Put a wood bat in his bare hands (Tucker doesn’t believe in batting gloves) and he’ll wreak some precise havoc. When I happened to be stranded in Dallas during Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, I was able to watch Kyle Tucker play several road games in Frisco against the Texas Rangers’ AA affiliate. When you see this lanky, 6-foot-4, still not completely grown into his frame, kid repeating his sweet swing over and over again, you quickly become a believer.

And in many ways, Tucker is still a kid. OK, he’s not 19-year-old Juan Soto launching monster home runs at Yankees Stadium years before he’s even legal drinking age. But at 21 years and 171 days old, Tucker is the youngest active player in the American League.

Thankfully, despite being one of the most hyped prospects in baseball at a time when prospects are hyped like never before, Tucker seems to still have that kid attitude about everything.

“I mean just being in the Big Leagues is awesome,” Tucker tells the TV cameras after his debut. “Just being around, especially this team, they have so much fun.”

Astros rookie Kyle Tucker smile
Astros rookie Kyle Tucker is enjoying his first Major League moments. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)

The Astros’ young veterans seem to be embracing the new kid, too. Astros like George Springer and Bregman continue to delight in insisting on only calling Tucker “Ted” — the nickname they hung on him in spring training because some (but it should be noted, certainly not Tucker himself) got overexcited and compared his hitting style to Ted Williams’ swing.

And there is Jose Altuve himself, bouncing out of the dugout to secure the ball from Tucker’s first hit to make sure that the 21-year-old gets it. On a day when Altuve gets two more hits of his own, keeping his new hold over Mookie Betts for the highest batting average in the American League, he seems most excited about Tucker’s moment.

And why not? The Astros’ best players know better than anyone how much the new kid can help.

This is not a clubhouse that gets jealous or denies youth. This is a clubhouse that recognizes talent.

“We’re going to welcome him with open arms,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch says in his postgame press conference. “He’s going to have a role on this team. But a lot of days you’re not going to notice him. He’s going to be quiet.

“He’s going to do his thing.”

Kyle Tucker may be quiet. But big sticks never go unnoticed. Just ask another Ted. As in Roosevelt.

Yankees Push Back

On his first day, Tucker singles off White Sox first baseman Matt Davidson’s extended glove for his first Major League hit and pushes in a run later by drawing a bases loaded walk. It’s a more than nice enough debut with the promise of much more.

The Yankees have no longer cornered the market on impact AL rookies with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. The Astros now have their own — one who should help more in October than he does in July.

The Astros are much better today than they were yesterday. That doesn’t happen very often in the long grind of a Major League Baseball season.

This time, it’s happening because of some kid named Ted.

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