Rockies 1B, formerly an independent leaguer, only 2nd to hit 1st 2 HRs on birthday
By Ben Weinrib
DENVER -- Rockies rookie Stephen Cardullo spent four years in independent ball before fulfilling his Major League dream. Now that he finally reached the Majors, he's quickly made his mark with his first two home runs -- including a grand slam -- on his 29th birthday Wednesday.
Cardullo hit a pinch-hit home run off Casey Fien in the seventh inning of the Rockies' 7-0 win over the Dodgers in the first game of a split doubleheader. He topped that just hours later with a grand slam in the first inning of the second game off Dodgers starter Bud Norris.
"Every day I try to work hard, get better, and live in the present," Cardullo said after the 10-8 loss in Game 2. "Obviously hitting two home runs today on my birthday was definitely special. I sat back and produced for the team."
The journey has been long for Cardullo, who was a walk-on at Florida State before earning All-America honors his senior year. The D-backs selected him in the 24th round of the 2010 Draft, but the club released him after two years at Rookie-level ball. Four years of independent ball later -- through London, Ontario; Florence, Ky.; and Pomona, N.Y. -- the Rockies finally gave him a chance at with an invitation to Spring Training in January.
Cardullo played well enough to break camp with Triple-A Albuquerque and hit .308 with 17 home runs in 115 games before the Rockies selected his contract Friday.
"I'm at a loss for words with all the blessings that I've had this year," Cardullo said. "Being given an opportunity to come to Spring Training, then making the team. Having a good year, and then the next thing you know I'm in the Major Leagues helping the team win. I've got to thank God for all his blessings."
Cardullo collected his first career hit Monday, and his excitement after the homer was palpable on his first home run. He sprinted around first as the ball drifted over the outfield fence, and his trip around the bases -- 18.8 seconds, according to Statcast™, on a 445-foot blast -- was tied for the fourth-fastest time for a Rockies hitter this season.
"I didn't know it was gone," Cardullo said. "I knew I hit it pretty good. I thought it was going to bounce and hit the wall, and I was trying to get a triple out of that. Fortunately enough, it went over the fence. What a great feeling."
Cardullo is the fifth player since 2000 to hit his first career homer on his birthday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other four were Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon (2011), Cubs outfielder Angel Pagan (2006), Phillies pitcher Randy Wolfe (2002) and Tigers first baseman Eric Munson (2001). Cardullo joins Pagan as the only players to hit their first two homers on their birthday, though Pagan did it in one game.
Cardullo is also one of three players since 1913 to homer in both games of a doubleheader on their birthday. The other were Reds first baseman Tony Perez (1972), Athletics left fielder Joe Rudi (1970), and Athletics shortstop Eddie Joost (1949).
"This whole story is really special, it really is," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss of Cardullo. "To get that pinch-hit homer on his birthday, I told him: 'You're having quite a week.' It's feel-good stuff. He's a great kid."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.