Stillwater alum Jackson Holliday, baseball’s top-rated prospect, makes MLB debut for Orioles at Fenway Park

The Associated Press - April 11, 2024 8:09 am

Baltimore Orioles' Jackson Holliday grounds into a force out during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON (AP) — After his rapid rise to the majors, Jackson Holliday was given a particularly meaningful number with the Baltimore Orioles.

Baseball’s top-ranked prospect made his big league debut Wednesday night at Fenway Park, starting at second base and batting ninth against the Boston Red Sox. He went down swinging his first time up and finished 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and an RBI groundout in Baltimore’s 7-5 win.

“Obviously, I would have liked to have gotten a few hits, but the overall experience was pretty incredible,” Holliday said. “To go out there and win and have an RBI, it’s pretty awesome just to be here.”

The 20-year-old infielder, selected No. 1 overall in the 2022 amateur draft out of high school in Oklahoma, where he played for Stillwater High School, is a son of Matt Holliday, a seven-time All-Star and the 2007 NL batting champion.

“Nervous? I mean, a little bit. Not too bad,” Jackson Holliday said before the game. “I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be. I’m more excited. Kind of changed the mind frame from nervous to excitement.

“I got a taste a little bit during spring training. Obviously, this will be different now during the season, but I felt like I was able to hold my own.”

Holliday wore No. 7 for Baltimore. His father had that number during seven seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and one with the Colorado Rockies. The number hadn’t been worn by a member of the Orioles since former manager Cal Ripken Sr. was still coaching in 1992.

One of his sons, Billy Ripken, was the previous Baltimore player to wear that number, in 1988. The Ripken family, Orioles royalty, gave its blessing to the young Holliday.

“Our family is thrilled that @J_Holliday7 will be wearing dad’s #7,” Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. posted on the social platform X. “Excited to watch him play!”

Holliday, who turned 20 on December 4th, became the second-youngest player in the majors behind Milwaukee outfielder Jackson Chourio, who turned 20 on March 11th.

“I’m sure to be 20 years old and go through the kind of pressure, the buildup, and all the stuff he had to go through today, I bet he’s probably glad it’s over and relieved and looking forward to playing tomorrow,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said.

A left-handed hitter, Holliday was drafted as a shortstop less than two years ago out of Stillwater High School and advanced through four minor league levels in 2023. He had a tremendous spring training with Baltimore this year, batting .311 with a .354 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage in 15 games.

Yet general manager Mike Elias wanted Holliday to get more playing time at second base and more experience against left-handed pitching. Just before the end of camp, Holliday was sent down. In 10 Triple-A games this season, he hit .333 with a .482 on-base percentage and .595 slugging percentage.

That time in Triple-A paid off, Holliday said.

“Yeah, I think getting at-bats. I got a lot of at-bats because we scored a lot of runs,” he said. “I was able to get pretty comfortable. My swing’s in a good spot, put together a lot of good at-bats versus lefties, which we knew was kind of more of the purpose of being down there. And, it doesn’t hurt to play.”

Primarily a shortstop, Holliday made 33 minor league starts at second base, including eight this season. Gunnar Henderson, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, plays shortstop for the Orioles, so Holliday will get most of his time at second.

“There’s a lot to process and there’s a lot of hype,” Hyde said before the game. “Hopefully, he can just relax, think confidently and have fun out there.”

Holliday started a 4-6-3 double play to end the second inning.

“We’re all smiles today,” said teammate Jordan Westburg, who hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning as the Orioles overcame a 5-0 deficit. “We’re just trying to keep him level, but he’s so mature he handled it really well.”

Baltimore selected Holliday’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk. To make room on the roster, utilityman Tony Kemp was designated for assignment.

Told of his promotion after his Triple-A game on Tuesday night, Holliday phoned home with the news.

“It was a really cool moment to be able to call my dad and tell him to find his way to Boston,” he said.

Matt Holliday batted .299 with 316 home runs and 1,220 RBIs during 15 major league seasons with the Rockies, Athletics, Cardinals, and Yankees from 2004-18.

Along with his father, and grandfather Tom Holliday, a longtime college coach, Jackson Holliday was expecting his wife, Chloe, his mother, brothers, and sister at Fenway Park for his debut.

“It’s different. It’s a lot. I feel like I’ve been born to handle that, and to be here and play baseball for a long time,” Jackson Holliday said before the game.

The youngster hadn’t had time to go through all the texts he’d received wishing him good luck, but there was one from a Maryland native that stood out.

“My dad showed me a text message from (Olympic swimmer) Michael Phelps,” Jackson Holliday said. “So, that was kind of cool.”

 

Latest Stories

NOC Stillwater awards NOC/OSU Gateway Ambassador Scholarships

Northern Oklahoma College has awarded NOC/OSU Gateway Ambassador Scholarships to two high school seniors that will...

Iran Mourns Death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister in Helicopter Crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister and others have been found dead at the...

Full Moon Concert Season Opens in Tonkawa with Bat Bennett

Enjoy live music under the stars with Bat at the season-opening Full Moon Concert on Thursday, May...