OAKLAND –- Mark Canha felt a sense of calm when he took the field for his first major league game Wednesday, not that it lasted long.
His not-so-graceful attempt at fielding Leonys Martin’s leadoff bunt ended with Canha making a lunging attempt to tag Martin. Only problem was the ball was still on the grass behind him, not in his glove like it was supposed to be.
“I was like, ‘Oh God, I look like an idiot out here,’” the A’s first baseman said with a grin afterward.
He could laugh at that play in retrospect after enjoying one of the best major league debuts of any A’s hitter in history. The San Jose native rang up a four-RBI night, becoming just the second Athletic since 1914 to drive in four or more runs in his first big league game. His box score could have looked even more gaudy considering he missed a grand slam by inches in the third inning.
After the game, teammates razzed Canha to get out of his chair and stand up while addressing the mass of reporters gathered around his locker. It was typical of the way veterans treat a rookie who is being swarmed by media after his first big game.
But here’s the catch with Canha. He’s no wide-eyed youngster. At age 26, he has logged five minor league seasons under his belt before getting this first shot in the majors as a Rule 5 draft pick. He must remain on the A’s 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Marlins, his original club, for $25,000.
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The road he’s traveled must have made Wednesday night oh-so-sweet. Even sweeter was that he had a teammate who could relate to what he’d been through. Second baseman Tyler Ladendorf also made his major league debut after spending seven seasons toiling in the minors, first in the Twins’ farm system and then with Oakland.
All the 27-year-old Ladendorf did was smack an RBI triple in his first career at-bat in the third inning. Together, they became the first teammates since 1920 to each have two RBI while making their debut in the same game.
“We play catch every day,” Ladendorf said. “After we got done throwing today, we just kind of tapped gloves and said 'Let’s go.’ I feel like we both kind of understood the table was set. We both prepared a long time for this.”
They were two of the four players in Oakland’s lineup appearing in their first game with the A’s. Catcher Josh Phegley and right fielder Cody Ross, who singled home a run after signing as a free agent earlier in the day, were the others.
“That’s a great way to start,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Canha and Ladendorf. “When you get in your first big league game and you’re able to do that, it really allows you to relax a little bit and feel like you belong.”
Canha was born and raised in San Jose and attended Cal. He was taken by Colorado in December’s Rule 5 draft, and then immediately was traded to the A’s, who had targeted him and pre-arranged the deal with the Rockies. Canha said he and his wife, Marci, started jumping up and down when they first got word he was headed to Oakland.
She was in the stands Wednesday along with Canha’s parents and his sister, who is visiting from Nicaragua, where she works in the Peace Corps. Canha hadn’t seen her in the past year before she arrived last weekend.
The right-handed hitting Canha could have anticipated he would play Wednesday against Rangers lefty Ross Detwiler. Still, he said he felt the butterflies when he saw his name on the lineup card before batting practice.
“Then surprisingly, when I ran out there, it felt like spring training kind of,” Canha said.
He overcame his mishap on his very first play, then hit so well that Melvin announced he would get a start in the outfield Thursday against right-hander Nick Martinez.
Canha waited a long time for this opportunity. On Wednesday, he took advantage the way few others in A’s history ever have.