5/8/2013 9:31 P.M. ET
Dietrich, grandson of Major Leaguer, called up
No. 8-ranked prospect in Marlins' system singles in his first at-bat
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- The commemorative baseball will go to his mother, and his thoughts were with his grandfather.
Derek Dietrich made his Major League debut on Wednesday, and the Marlins' 23-year-old second base prospect enjoyed immediate results.
The very first batter in the bottom of the first, San Diego's Everth Cabrera, whistled a hot shot right at Dietrich for an out. And in his first at-bat, leading off the third, the left-handed hitting infielder singled sharply off Jason Marquis to right field.
On a day the Padres prevailed, 1-0, over the Marlins, Dietrich had time to savor the afternoon and reflect on the man who did so much in his development as a player.
Dietrich's grandfather, Steve Demeter, is a former big league third baseman who was a great inspiration. Shortly before the start of Spring Training, Demeter passed away.
"Way back in Spring Training, I said, 'One of my goals, obviously, is to make it to the big leagues," Dietrich said. "I definitely wanted to do it this year, with his passing. I wanted to honor his name, and the things that he taught me about this game, how to respect it, and how to play it hard."
The advice grandfather passed on to grandson can be best described in three words.
"Let it fly," Dietrich said. "That's always been his advice. It pertains to offense and defense. Let it fly, have fun out there. That's kind of how I go about my business."
The saying has so much meaning that Dietrich had it tattooed on his left wrist when he was a sophomore at Georgia Tech. A few months ago, under "Let it fly," Dietrich added the dates of his grandfather's birth and death.
Dietrich participated in 332 career Minor League games, including 28 with Double-A Jacksonville this season.
All his hard work and dedication was done with the hope of getting that call to someday play in the big leagues.
That call came about 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
After Chris Valaika fractured a bone in his left wrist on the same day Donovan Solano was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left intercostal, the Marlins were down two second basemen.
The injuries prompted the club to turn to Dietrich, who had just finished playing 13 innings for Jacksonville on Tuesday.
Dietrich had his contract selected when Valaika was placed on the disabled list. To create room on the 40-man roster for Dietrich, first baseman Casey Kotchman was transferred to the 60-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring.
Dietrich is the Marlins' No. 8-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com
"I was in bed sleeping because [Jacksonville has] a 1:05 [ET] start today," Dietrich said. "I was just trying to get some rest. Got a phone call at about 1:50 from Andy Barkett, our Double A manager. He told me, 'Hey you're going to be playing second base in San Diego tomorrow.' I was ecstatic."
Dietrich caught a flight at 6:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, changed planes in Atlanta, and landed in San Diego before 11 a.m. PT. He was in the Marlins' starting lineup, playing second for the series finale.
"This kid, he's young, and he's got a lot of energy," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "Who couldn't get excited? Last night you're in Double-A. Tonight you're in San Diego playing second base in the big leagues. How couldn't you get excited for that?
"I remember my Major League debut, I didn't sleep either, and I had a pretty good day."
The Marlins acquired Dietrich in December from the Rays for shortstop Yunel Escobar. A left-handed hitter, he batted .282 (29-for-103) with seven doubles, two triples and four homers and 16 RBIs for Jacksonville in 28 games.
After being woken up, Dietrich phoned his parents, who live in Cleveland. They also made travel plans to be in San Diego on Wednesday.
"Just so excited," Dietrich said. "Couldn't wait to call my parents and tell them and my closest family members. Experience and a dream. I know it's a cliche, but it's a dream come true. One of my goals was to make it to the big leagues. Now my goal is to stay in the big leagues and have a career here. Hopefully, I can start that today."