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Congratulations To A Talented Oaf On His First Major League Home Run

Spencer Torkelson #20 of the Detroit Tigers hits a home run to left field against the Boston Red Sox during the seventh inning at Comerica Park on April 13, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan.
Duane Burleson/Getty Images

A story of me being owned, for there is no other kind of story: I had my choice of a day off this week and wasn’t sure whether to take off Tuesday or Wednesday. Either way, I planned to go to a baseball game in the afternoon. Thinking little of it, I chose Wednesday. Tuesday, of course, was gorgeous, and the game between the Red Sox and Tigers that day featured something I’d eagerly awaited: Detroit’s powerful super rookie Spencer Torkelson slicing a double to right-center for his first major-league hit.

When your team has sucked for a while, you crave these milestones and in fact need them to live. Crushed to have missed a big moment I nearly saw in person and spooked by what now looked like a dismal weather forecast, I ended up bailing on Wednesday’s game and using the day off to be sad and do my taxes at home instead. This was equally stupid of me, because had I braved the rain, I could have seen Torkelson’s first major-league home run! I had to listen to it on the radio like a clown. (What I’m trying to say is never do your taxes.)

To make me even sadder, Lauren pointed out that if I’d gone, my odds of catching the ball were probably one in five.

Torkelson, a 22-year-old first baseman, is the fifth-best MLB prospect by Baseball America‘s rankings. He’s a power hitter, though a patient one, “set to be a middle-of-the-order force in the Tigers lineup for years to come.” Like some other top prospects on Opening Day rosters this year and unlike Steven Kwan, his initial plate appearances proved frustrating. Torkelson drew a couple walks, but mostly struck out. When he did so, he would slam his bat on the ground, swear loudly enough to be caught on the TV mics, or hunch over at the waist in frustration, as if to say, Why? Why??? These theatrical displays of anguish endeared him to me more. And they confirmed my long-held suspicion that our pal Spencer is a bit of an oaf.

Oaves, you’ll recall from Chris Thompson’s blog about them here, are clumsy, weird and a little funny to look at. Conveniently, Chris already added “All baseball first basemen” to his list of oaves, so the list requires no amendment on Torkelson’s behalf.

What gave his oafishness away? You’ll notice that I introduced him as Detroit’s powerful super rookie Spencer Torkelson—no commas. This is because there is another powerful super rookie. He is Riley Greene, the fourth-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America‘s rankings. Greene, who is injured at the moment, is not himself an oaf, but plenty of Torkelson’s oafish tendencies can be seen in this video tour of the spring training house they share.

Notice, for example, their janky gaming setup. Greene and Torkelson, two professional athletes both drafted very highly, placed a small television atop one of those high counter chairs and were content to live like that. After recounting a recent golfing mishap, Torkelson makes the oafish point that people who do not want their homes pelted by errant golf balls should not live on a golf course. He also admits to an oafish fear of knives following the infamous “corn salsa incident” that caused him to miss some of last year’s spring training with stitches in his right index finger.

It does not get any oafier than “Well, we don’t have a can opener. I think I saw something where you can do this with a knife. And so I get this knife—it’s like a pocket knife—and I try and stick it in the tin or whatever, and then the knife folded and just sliced my finger.” Here is someone who has overcome tremendous oafishness to succeed at his sport’s highest levels. Congratulations to Spencer!

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