Welcome To The Show – Luke Raley

Welcome To The Show – Luke Raley

With the injury sustained by Cody Bellinger in Oakland last week, the Dodgers had a decision to make. They could put Bellinger on the IL and lose him for at least 10 days. Or they could wait and see if he healed faster but tie up the roster spot in the meantime. This being only the second week in a long season, they chose to play it safe and put him on the IL. Their choice meant that they would need to bring up a replacement from the alternate site.

A Hidden Gem From Lake Erie To Dodger Stadium

Luke Raley was the 221st player selected in the 2016 MLB draft. He hadn’t received any scholarship offers to play Division I baseball, so he wound up in a Division II school, Lake Erie College. He stood out on his college team, batting .379 with 25 home runs in his three years in the program. Despite making team captain, Raley didn’t crack the Baseball America Top 500 list before the draft. It surprised him when the Dodgers selected him in the seventh round. While he expected to be drafted around that round, he hadn’t heard back from the Dodgers after a bad showing with them in apre-draft workouts.

He moved through the AZL rookie level and the Ogden Raptors short-season teams, found his way to the Low-A Great Lakes Loons by the end of 2016 and continued his upward trajectory from there. High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2017. AA Tulsa in 2018. Then the Dodgers traded him to the Minnesota Twins as a part of the deal that brought Brian Dozier to Los Angeles.  Raley grew to love the Dodgers organization; leaving it was hard for him. Flash forward to spring of 2020, and the Dodgers shipped Kenta Maeda to the Twins. They received two players in return for Maeda. Hard-throwing relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol and their former 221st draft pick Luke Raley. 

When one player in the trade throws over 100 MPH, and the other is a seventh-round pick from a Division II college, the conversation revolves around the guy who is putting up triple digits. An ankle injury in 2019 and a canceled 2020 minor league season meant that Raley had not seen much game action in the last couple of years. However, in his time back with the Dodgers, he had shown continued development and a readiness that led to his call-up on Friday night. Once again, Raley flew under the radar.

His debut was lost in the glamour of the World Series ring ceremony that preceded the game. Lost in the pitching duel between Walker Buehler and Joe Ross. In the excitement of Justin Turner’s game-winning home run. It was washed away with the dulcet tones of Bronson Arroyo singing Wonderwall

But not to Luke Raley. Not to his mother, who he called before the game to share the good news. Not to his coaches, teammates, friends, and family that had been a part of his journey to that moment. And not to the MLB history books. On Friday night at Dodger Stadium, Luke Raley was the 19,934th player to debut in Major League Baseball. That is his forever.

Welcome to the show, Luke Raley.

Looking back – Pete Richert

On this day in Dodgers debut history, Pete Richert arrived in the big leagues. April 12th, 1962, was a strange but memorable night at Dodger Stadium. Richert entered the game in relief down 4-0 with two outs in the second inning and struck out the first batter he faced. The following inning, he struck out four batters. After the second strikeout victim of the inning reached on a dropped strike three by catcher John Roseboro, Richert struck out the next two batters and made his way back to the dugout, having struck out more batters than he had recorded outs in his major league career. 

When he took the mound in the fourth inning and struck out the next hitter, he set the record for most consecutive batters struck out to begin a big-league career. To this day, no one has caught him. When the game finished, Richert threw 3 ⅓ perfect innings with seven strikeouts. He also earned the win as the Dodgers came from behind to beat the Reds 11-7.

Richert went on to pitch for thirteen years in the majors for five different teams. He was selected as an all-star two times, and earned MVP votes two times. He retired in 1974 with a career record of 80-73, a career ERA of 3.19, and while he wound up striking out 925 batters in his big league career, the first six were perhaps his most notable. 

A Note About Jackie Robinson Day

This series focuses on the Major League debuts of players because so often, there are interesting stories in and around the debut games and intriguing journeys to the big leagues that provide context to who these players are as individuals. The story of Jackie Robinson is interesting for the same reasons. A complex and interesting person, he faced a unique and challenging path to and through the Major Leagues.  His life, his story, and his significance are forever a part of baseball history. 

As we celebrate Jackie Robinson day this coming week, I would like to suggest that we consider not only his individual story but the significance that his entrance into Major League Baseball held for those who came before and after him. Look at the recent and long-overdue designation of the Negro Leagues as Major Leagues by MLB in December of 2020. Look at the journeys of black athletes who have faced and continue to face discrimination in sports. Jackie Robinson Day is an opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow as a fan. I hope that we can all work toward the growth of our beloved pastime through anti-racist education and advocacy. 

It is the leagues and the players’ responsibility and the fans to insist that we do better for BIPOC athletes than we have done historically. That is how we can truly honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

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