Rocchio feeling the love as Guardians mob him after first HR

June 9th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter, with contributions this week from reporter Paige Leckie. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MIAMI — The dugout reception a rookie gets after hitting their first Major League homer varies. One of the most common greetings, perhaps, is the silent treatment — which permeates most big league dugouts, as the batter is ignored by teammates and coaches alike before, ultimately, being celebrated.

That was the avenue the Guardians took with Brayan Rocchio on Friday night in the 3-2 loss against the Marlins. After he crushed a two-run homer to put Cleveland on the board first in the third inning, with family and friends in the stands, Rocchio skipped (or high-stepped? Just watch the video) down the length of the dugout with both arms raised for high fives, smiling the whole time. Austin Hedges, who reached base on a single before Rocchio drove him in, followed him and mimicked his entrance to the dugout — though Hedges actually received high fives.

Then, Rocchio was mobbed. His teammates surrounded him, with the massive group hug jumping up and down with excitement for the 23-year-old.

“I have the best teammates ever,” Rocchio said. “You know, they give me support every time when it is not going my way. And now in that moment, they celebrate it with me — for me, that’s awesome.”

Rocchio’s first long ball, which left his bat with a 104.6 mph exit velocity and soared a Statcast-projected 377 feet into the Marlins’ bullpen, has been a while coming — 77 games and 242 at-bats across two seasons, to be exact.

Of course, that’s not as long as some have to wait. But still, it’s a weight off Rocchio’s shoulders. So, how did it feel?

“It’s special for me because I’ve got my brother here, my girlfriend [here],” Rocchio said. “That’s awesome that they’re part of my first homer. For me, it is one of the best days.”

It’s been a tough season for the switch-hitter. He entered play on Sunday with a .213 average and a .601 OPS in 55 games (51 starts), and the pressure of now having a hot-hitting middle infielder Daniel Schneemann in the mix can’t make things any easier on him. But lately, Rocchio has been starting to trend up: he has a .333 average (4-for-12) in his first six games in June.

Perhaps Friday, though not the result the Guardians wanted with a team loss, will mark a turning point for Rocchio. He’s been studiously working on hitting better from the right side, including taking BP righty on Friday. The lasting impact, though — well, only time will tell.

“That was awesome,” manager Stephen Vogt said. “Good moment for Rocc. Obviously got us going offensively, and, you know, Rocc — we’ve challenged Rocc a lot. He’s been great at shortstop and he’s struggled sometimes with the offensive, particularly right-handed. … We pinch-hit for him the other day, right-handed, and I think he took it personally, in a good way. It was a good challenge for him. So it was really cool to see him respond, to step up today.”