Kansas City Royals outfielder Dairon Blanco couldn’t hide the smile if he tried, and he had no intention of trying to conceal the joy of getting his first taste of the major leagues.
After all, his ascension to the majors came with little warning. He wasn’t even on the club’s 40-man roster. But that hasn’t stopped him from soaking up every moment as a big-league player.
Blanco, 29, joined the Royals on Thursday after starting center fielder Michael A. Taylor went on the injured list due to COVID contact tracing. Blanco had been playing for Triple-A Omaha when he got pulled from his club’s game on Wednesday night and informed he was needed elsewhere.
“It was amazing,” Blanco said in Spanish with assistant strength and conditioning coach/Latin American coordinator Luis Perez interpreting. “It was the second inning of the game and they told me right there that I needed to go out and pack and make the drive. As soon as I got here I couldn’t believe it.”
Blanco, a native of Cuba, played in the Cuban National Series as a teenager as far back as 2012. He had a two-year layoff from playing in games from 2016-17 before signing with the Oakland Athletics at the age of 24 in December 2017.
He turned 25 early in his first season at Single-A in 2018, and he’d advanced to Double-A by the time the Royals acquired him as part of the trade that sent left-handed reliever Jake Diekman to the Athletics ahead of the MLB trade deadline in 2019.
He finished 2019 with the Royals’ Double-A affiliate in Northwest Arkansas. Following the pandemic year of 2020, he began the 2021 season back at Class AA before he finished that year at Triple-A.
“I was extremely happy when I got the call,” Blanco said of his reaction to being promoted to the majors. “I’ve been working a lot through my career in the minor leagues. I’m very proud and feel very excited to be here.”
Blanco said his first call once he got the news on Wednesday night was to his parents, and his mother started crying as soon as she heard.
At the time of his promotion from Triple-A, Blanco had batted .263 with a .381 on-base percentage, a .442 slugging percentage, five home runs, 15 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 31 games.
Blanco started his first game in the majors on Friday night and collected his first hit off of Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Devin Smeltzer in the fifth inning.
“Beautiful,” Blanco said of his first experience in the majors. “It’s nice to be here. Now, it’s all about staying healthy and keep taking steps in the right direction to be here.”