04/06/09 12:43 AM ET
Schafer homers in first career at-bat
Center fielder: 'I felt like I was floating. It was awesome'
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
While making his Major League debut against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night, Schafer became the 99th player to record a homer in his first career at-bat.
During the second inning of Atlanta's 4-1 win over the Phillies, the 22-year-old center fielder drilled starter Brett Myers' 3-1 fastball over the center-field wall, then enjoyed his first trot around the bases.
"I definitely didn't expect all of that to happen," Schafer said. "I don't even think my feet hit the ground as I was running around the bases. I felt like I was floating. It was awesome."
Schafer became just the fourth player in Braves history to homer in his first at-bat. The other three to do so were Joe Harrington (1895), Chuck Tanner (1955) and Jermaine Dye (1996). The only other Atlanta Braves players to homer during their Major League debuts were Bob Horner (1978), Dye (1996), Marty Malloy (1998) and Jeff Francoeur (2005).
"Before the game, we were telling him that everybody always remembers their first game, and this one will definitely be special for him," said Francoeur, who opened the second inning by hitting the first pitch he saw this season over the left-field wall.
Schafer's placement in Sunday night's lineup was a bit of a rarity. The previous Braves player to make his Major League debut on Opening Day as a starter was Rufino Lunares in 1981.
"Coming in, I really didn't have butterflies," Schafer said. "I was just trying to do my job and everything turned out great tonight. That was far beyond my dreams. I never dreamt of that ever happening."
Schafer was widely considered the Braves' top prospect before Major League Baseball handed him a 50-game suspension for an alleged association with human growth hormone last year. He hit .269 with 10 homers in 84 games with Double-A Mississippi, then came to camp this year determined to prove he was ready to begin what could be a long tenure as Atlanta's starting center fielder.
Recognized as a five-tool prospect with outstanding defensive skills, Schafer capped his memorable two-hit debut with a fourth-inning single. He also drew a two-out intentional walk in front of starter Derek Lowe in the sixth.
"It wasn't too long ago that we were where he is now," catcher Brian McCann said. "We want to do whatever we can to help him make a smooth transition."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.