By Mike Jones
Nathan Karns’ only home run was historic. The first, and so far only, home run of Karns’ career came on July 21, 2015 while with the Rays. Karns led off the third inning of a scoreless game with a first-pitch home run. His homer was the only scoring as the Rays beat the Phillies 1-0, a feat by an American League pitcher that hadn’t been accomplished since 1962. It also was the first hit by a Rays pitcher that season. And it was the first time ever in interleague play that a game was decided 1-0 on a home run by a pitcher. Prophetically, Karns said after the game that he had asked his manager, Kevin Cash, for advice before the at-bat, and according to MLB.com, Cash replied, “Knock it out if you can.”
Joaquin Benoit holds the Major League record for longest save. On September 3, 2002 in Baltimore, Benoit came on in relief of Todd Van Poppel to start the third inning. Van Poppel had taken over for starter Aaron Myette, who was ejected after his first two pitches were thrown behind Melvin Mora (in apparent retaliation for Alex Rodriguez having been hit in the top of the first). The Rangers had a combined no-hitter until Jerry Hairston hit a leadoff triple in the ninth. The Rangers won 7-1, and the official scorer gave Van Poppel the win and Benoit the save, the first of his career. The previous record was six innings by the Rangers’ Horatio Pina in 1972. The save became an official stat in 1969.
Wade LeBlanc has played for nine different professional teams. That is, if you count the Angels twice, and he’s been associated with ten if you count that he was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2003 but didn’t pitch for them, opting to attend the University of Alabama. In 2006 he was drafted by the Padres, for whom he made his Major League debut in 2008. In 2011, the Padres traded him to the Marlins. The Astros claimed him off waivers in 2013, and later that year he became a free agent and the Angels picked him up. In 2014 the Yankees claimed him, but he didn’t stick there and went back to the Angels. LeBlanc then spent a year with Japan’s Saitama Seibu Lions. The Blue Jays signed him in December 2015, and seven months later he became a Mariner in a trade for cash or a player to be named later. LeBlanc will turn 32 on August 7.
Dae-Ho Lee was pestered into playing baseball by another Korean star. The Mariners slugger wasn’t a baseball player as a kid until another kid at his elementary school wore him down and got him to try the game. Shin-Soo Choo, whose first Major League team also was the Mariners, talked him into baseball. As Lee told Shannon Dreyer of MyNorthwest.com, “In third grade Shin-Soo Choo transferred to my school and he kept asking me to play baseball so I finally started.” Dreyer reports Lee played every position when he was a child and preferred shortstop because “he thought he looked good there.”
Adam Lind owns an award named for his coach. Lind won the Edgar Martinez Award as outstanding designated hitter for the 2009 season while with the Blue Jays. The man for whom the award is named is of course Lind’s current hitting coach with the Mariners. Lind was the third Blue Jay to win the award following Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor. And Edgar should be in the Hall of Fame. Just sayin’. (Hey, if a player who was primarily a designated hitter is ever going to get into the Hall of Fame, and David Ortiz will be a shoo-in, Edgar Martinez deserves the honor. Okay, stepping down from the soap box now.)
Kyle Seager was the first to hit a game-tying, extra-inning grand slam. During a day game at Safeco Field, June 5, 2013, Seager came up to bat with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 14th inning. His ensuing grand slam actually contributed to a few Major League records. It was the first game-tying, extra-inning grand slam and the first time a team had scored five or more runs in the 14th inning or later to tie a game. And it was the first time two teams went scoreless through nine then each scored five or more runs in extra innings. It’s a bittersweet memory for the Mariners, however, as the White Sox won 7-5 in 16 innings. WATCH Kyle’s grand slam.
Seth Smith backed up Eli Manning. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Smith was the backup quarterback during Eli Manning’s years at the University of Mississippi. We’d love to share some stats from Smith’s days at Ole Miss, but sadly, there aren’t any. He didn’t take a snap. Bonus fun fact: The Mariners outfielder, who looks so much like a ‘50s TV dad that he inspired the Twitter hashtag #votefordad to get him into the All-Star Game, was a child actor. His credits include “Home Alone 3” and “Angels in the Outfield.”