Ben Rice’s ‘hungry’ response to stadium roll call aptly validates his talent

New York Yankees’ Ben Rice smiles on first base after hitting a single against the Baltimore Orioles during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Pamela Smith

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In his MLB debut on Tuesday night, Ben Rice, the Yankees’ rookie first baseman, showed he was hungry for the big leagues. During the traditional first-inning roll call by the Bleacher Creatures, the rookie entertained the crowd by turning around and joining in with a ‘hungry’ gesture.

Using his glove as an imaginary plate, Ben Rice mimed scooping food into his mouth with his bare hand. This playful gesture delighted the fans and added flavor to his introduction after being called up from Triple-A earlier that day.

With Anthony Rizzo out due to injury, the Yankees tapped into prospect Ben Rice, known for his versatility having played catcher and first base in the minors. The 25-year-old eagerly debuted in MLB on Tuesday night against the Orioles, aiming to display his batting prowess. Ben Rice achieved his first major league hit with a single in the third inning and ended the game 1-for-4, contributing to the Yankees’ 4-2 victory over Baltimore.

Ben Rice justifies his hunger with first hit

With his first hit, Yankees rookie Ben Rice sprinted toward first base, bubbling with excitement, his gaze fixed on the ball he had just launched into shallow right field. The smile on the left-handed batter’s face was contagious, illuminating Yankee Stadium during his Major League debut.

New York Yankees’ Ben Rice smiles as he runs to first base after hitting a single during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Pamela Smith

Ben Rice’s sharp awareness shone through as he carefully tracked the ball’s path from Orioles right fielder Anthony Santander’s glove to catcher James McCann, ensuring teammate Alex Verdugo held at second base. The significant hit—a line drive off a high fastball—was swiftly retrieved and sent to the Yankees’ dugout for safekeeping, a cherished keepsake from Ben Rice’s unforgettable inaugural game in the majors.

“I’m going to be a competitor,” the debutant said. “I’m going to be a tough out. I’ll try to do everything I can to help the team win offensively and defensively.”

The rookie, a lifelong Yankees enthusiast hailing from the Boston area, etched a memorable debut in Tuesday’s 4-2 victory against the Orioles. Ben Rice, who transitioned through the minor leagues last season as a catcher/first baseman, clinched his maiden Major League hit for his cherished Yankees.

His dream steadily materialized following a standout 2023 season where he thrived across Low A, High A, and Double-A levels. His strong performance in Double-A early this year, coupled with an impressive 11-game stint in Triple-A, paved his path to the majors. Upon reaching first base, a jubilant Rice playfully persuaded Yankees coach Travis Chapman into a high-five, seemingly taken aback by the surreal moment.

Ben Rice of the Yankees received a life-changing call on Monday night following news of first-baseman Anthony Rizzo’s right-hand fracture. Around 10 p.m., Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Shelley Duncan phoned the propspect to deliver the exciting news that his dream of joining the Yankees was about to come true.

Ben Rice admitted that while a call-up wasn’t on his mind, he was thrilled nonetheless. The rookie, who bats left-handed, is slated to start at first base against right-handed pitchers. Making his Major League debut in the opener of a crucial AL East series, he found himself batting sixth in the Yankees’ lineup as the Orioles opted for a right-hander on the mound.

Ben Rice, ranked 12th among the Yankees‘ prospects by MLB Pipeline, is determined to make an immediate impact on the team with the best record in the majors at 50-24. The confident rookie has asserted his intention to be a formidable force both offensively and defensively, aiming to contribute significantly to the team’s success.

The photo of Ben Rice as a kid and on his Yankees debut on June 18, 2024.

Yankees bench coach Brad Ausmus, filling in for Aaron Boone who was attending his son’s high school graduation on Tuesday night, praised Ben Rice’s approach at the plate. Ausmus highlighted his ability to handle big-league pitches with discretion, demonstrating a mature eye for the strike zone and making pitchers work hard. He also lauded Ben Rice’s exemplary work ethic, noting the young player’s dedication to his training regimen.

“You just you watch a guy hit and you can tell that’s a big league at bat,” Ausmus told. “He’s taking the right pitches. He’s swinging attacking the right pitches. He’s making the pitcher work and Ben does that. The work ethic was outstanding. You can tell he puts not only a lot of work in but a lot of thought into his work.”

Highly regarded within the Yankees organization, Ben Rice showcased his talent in his debut against the Orioles, affirming his status as one of the team’s most promising young stars.

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