‘I lost all feeling in my body:’ What call-up of Vinnie Pasquantino means to KC Royals

·5 min read
Charlie Riedel/AP

In Omaha on Monday morning, Vinnie Pasquantino was preparing for the Triple-A Storm Chasers’ road trip to Minnesota by doing laundry and other mundane stuff. Then he got a curious text from manager Scott Thorman “kind of asking where I was … without asking where I was.”

This struck Pasquantino as odd, especially on an off day. Enough that he said he “kind of knew something might be up a little bit.”

So his heart started thumping faster in anticipation of what maybe finally was about to come next. That left him feeling like he couldn’t sit still and might as well be productive, leading him to take out the garbage for what teammate and roommate Clay Dungan reckoned was the first time all year.

Now Pasquantino will forever remember that he was in the hallway with the trash when he saw Thorman and two of his coaches heading his way to deliver the message he had long waited to hear … and that Royals fans had been craving all season.

“You’re going to need to drop those bags real quick; you’re going to the big leagues,” he recalled Thorman saying. “I lost all feeling in my body, which was an interesting experience to say the least.”

As was speaking with Pasquantino on the field at Kauffman Stadium before the Royals’ game against Texas on Monday night.

It wasn’t just that he was quick-witted and articulate, and self-deprecating and open about his flood of emotions in advance of his major-league debut, which was expected to be Tuesday night.

It was what all of those combined to convey: a certain maturity and uncommon ease with himself, especially evident in the glare of the spotlight and with considerable expectations being cast upon him.

When I asked him about that excited-but-unfazed vibe, he spoke both of how he proudly wears his emotions on his sleeve but that the coolest moment of his day might have been one of calm reflection.

Waiting for his clothes to dry, in his apartment by himself, he “just kind of had a moment with myself” that surely spanned the journey to this day and the wonders of what lies ahead.

How all this actually translates on the field, of course, remains to be seen as the Royals enter the next phase of the youth movement highlighted by Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez and a host of, alas, largely inconsistent young pitchers.

If this day didn’t represent a fundamental acceleration of that emphasis, it certainly featured twin elements engaged toward that end: the trade of 36-year-old Carlos Santana to Seattle for two young pitchers and the promotion of Pasquantino, 24.

The dynamics were essentially entwined over these last few weeks, with the Royals wanting Pasquantino to get more at-bats while hoping the sputtering Santana had enough of a resurgence to earn trade value.

“I think it’s a sign of where we want to go,” said general manager J.J. Picollo, “and who’s going to be on the field for us for a long time.”

Only time will tell with Pasquantino, of course. And let’s all remember that rare is the newcomer to the major leagues whose trajectory trends only upward. The evident comfort and confidence that makes him feel like fan anticipation isn’t so much pressure as support will doubtless be challenged at times.

But if there is a correlation between someone’s apparent self-assurance off the field and on, it seems the 6-foot-4, 245-pound first baseman at least has a fine foundation for the makings of the star the Royals hope he can be after he hit .280 (70 for 250) with 18 home runs and more walks (37) than strikeouts (36) in Omaha. With 67 RBIs in 69 games, only the Mets’ Pete Alonso has more (69 in 73 games) across all of pro baseball.

No wonder the Royals message to him is “you be you,” as manager Mike Matheny put it. The young man with a rare mix of power and plate discipline needn’t try to carry the weight of this team (26-45 entering their game on Monday) on his shoulders, he said.

“The expectation is that he doesn’t change,” Picollo said. “He’s got a great approach to hitting; we don’t want him to get out of that.”

Likewise, Pasquantino remembers and values what got him here. Literally so when it comes to most of the details of his arrival Monday, … albeit with some gaps.

Before he left, he called his girlfriend, his brother and his mother and father — whom Pasquantino laughingly reported scoffed at the news with such retorts as “yeah, OK” and “OK, sure” and “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Even when Thorman got on the phone to confirm.

Since all of Pasquantino’s clothes were in the dryer, teammate William Hancock ironed some pants and a white T-shirt for him to wear before he got into his 2015 Ford Escape and started down Interstate 29. He made so many phone calls as he drove that it took 90 minutes for one four-minute song to play through. Just don’t ask him what the song was.

“I don’t know,” he said, laughing. “That’s how little I listened to the song.”

Along the way, he also had to clarify a few matters with the Royals.

“I didn’t know how to park,” he said, before quickly allowing as he actually does know how to park but simply hadn’t known where.

He also learned he’d be wearing No. 9, which he hasn’t worn before and struggled to sign with his name (“I need to work on my nines,” he said). But he rather liked it, since he long favored having a number that was a multiple of three.

Now that the 2019 11th-round pick is here, though, the bigger question in any jersey is for how long.

“Just because I’m here now,” he said, “doesn’t mean I’m going to stay.”

Unless he’s able to stay in the character and frame of mind as much on the field as off, sustained by both the “great approach to hitting” Picollo noted … and a great approach overall.

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