Barely three weeks into his first season in Triple A, 51s first baseman David Cooper got the call he had been waiting for his whole life when manager Marty Brown told him he’d been summoned to the big leagues.
After boarding a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to New York on April 28, Cooper made his major league debut, with his parents in attendance, the next day at Yankee Stadium.
“Talk about making a debut. That’s kind of the mecca,” Cooper said. “That was pretty special. That was something I’ll never forget.”
The 24-year-old slugger cracked his first big league hit, a single off Ivan Nova, in the series finale against the Yankees.
The left-handed hitter also belted a tiebreaking solo home run off Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard, and he hit a game-winning sacrifice fly May 10 in Toronto’s 7-6, 10-inning victory over Boston.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was fun.”
But Cooper, second in the Pacific Coast League with a .374 batting average, hit only .121 (4-for-33) with five RBIs in 13 games for the Blue Jays before getting sent back to Las Vegas on May 17.
“I started chasing pitches. I started doing things I don’t commonly do,” said Cooper, who went 1-for-4 with a three-run double for the 51s in Friday’s 11-4 win over Tacoma at Cashman Field.
“Looking back on it now, (Toronto manager John) Farrell always talks about staying within yourself and not trying to be somebody you’re not, and I think that’s exactly what I did when I went up there. I was trying to do too much.”
Las Vegas hitting coach Chad Mottola, who was the fifth pick of the 1992 draft, said it’s natural for a player to press in his first foray in the majors.
“You want to stay there. Everybody wants to play there. They don’t want to play here, so human nature takes over and you try to do more than what you have to do,” he said. “He got his first time going up out of the way, and now he knows what it’s like up there and he can come back and just do what he’s always done.”
Cooper, who grew up in Northern California and was a standout at Cal State Fullerton and California, batted a combined .333 for three Class-A ballclubs in 2008. He spent the past two seasons at Double-A New Hampshire, batting .257 last year, when he set career highs in homers (20) and RBIs (78).
Cooper has raised his average by more than 100 points this season for the 51s (30-19), and in 30 games he has 17 doubles, two homers and 34 RBIs.
He credits Mottola, whom he called the best hitting coach he’s ever had, and a return to his college form last season for his success.
“In July last year, I made a couple adjustments, and that’s when my year took off,” he said. “When I was drafted, I kind of started changing things around that, looking back, I shouldn’t have done.
“I got a lot of footage from my college days and kind of worked back to getting there, and things started getting going for me and I’ve been doing well since.
“Hopefully, if I get another opportunity (in the majors), I’ll stick with that and don’t stray from the approach I have.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS — 11
TACOMA — 4
KEY: Adam Loewen and David Cooper combined for seven RBIs, and the 51s scored four runs in the fifth inning and six in the seventh to gain their 10th win in 11 games.
NEXT: Rainiers (RHP Chaz Roe) at 51s (LHP Brett Cecil), 7:05 p.m. today, KBAD-AM (920)