It was the best story of a bleak season in the Bronx. Sure, Aaron Judge is still one of the best players on the planet, and yes, Domingo Germán pitched a perfect game, but nothing really compared to the jolt of excitement provided by Jasson Domínguez’s promotion to the major league level.
After four years of marinating in the minor leagues, Domínguez arrived last week with a literal bang, launching a home run with his first major league swing, victimizing future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. Proving that wasn’t a fluke, he hit three more home runs after that and peppered line drives around the field, all with the hint of a smile that seemed to tell the world that he knew he belonged.
While it didn’t erase the pain of 2023, it suddenly reshaped my outlook for 2024. This eight-game stretch didn’t convince me that Domínguez would produce a full season with an OPS over 1.000, but I knew he would be good enough to play 150 games in centerfield, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit imagining him producing numbers reminiscent of Ronald Acúña’s. I went from thinking that the Yankees would be wandering in the wilderness for a few years to believing they could be great again next season, and all because of the tantalizing talent of one twenty-year-old kid.
This is the beauty of baseball, a game that traffics in hope and dreams unlike any of our other sports. While one team’s fans are celebrating their heroes who have just won the World Series, the rest of us are dreaming on the potential of youngsters who might grow up to be legends. I once spun those dreams around a kid named Rubén Rivera only to watch them disappear like smoke, but a few years later the dream was about a kid named Derek Jeter and everything worked out. The thing you have to remember about baseball is this — you never know.
And so when I heard the news about Jasson Domínguez and his torn UCL, I was devastated.
My first selfish response was to mourn what was lost. Suddenly the rest of this season became nothing more than a series of meaningless games, and the hope I held for 2024 was diminished. (Not dashed, only diminished.)
But more than all of that, there was pain for Domínguez. Something else inherent to baseball is the joy that comes with watching a young player’s success, whether it’s headline material like Domínguez’s brilliant start or even just a ground ball up the middle for a marginal prospect’s first major league hit. As we watch from the stands or from our seat on the couch, we imagine our own childhood dreams coming true, and even the grizzled veterans in the dugout are taken back to their own debuts. Never are smiles more genuine, never are cheers more uplifting.
For a week and a day, Jasson Domínguez was walking in a dream world. Late last week reporter Meredith Marakovits asked Domínguez a simple question: “What’s the best part of being in the majors?” and his response was even simpler: “Being in the majors.”
For the next six to eight months, he won’t be. He’s only twenty years old and he still could have a brilliant career in front of him, but we’ll have to wait a while to see it. And that’s a shame.