Wednesday was Max Muncy bobblehead night, but he shared center stage with the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting Korean pop group NCT 127, Alex Verdugo on his 23rd birthday, and ultimately Kenta Maeda in what was an all-around performance.
Verdugo finished the night 1-for-3 with an infield single that came as a result of the Dodgers successfully challenging an out call. That proved to be key as Verdugo later stole second base with two outs.
He scored on Maeda’s two-run bloop double into shallow right field that held up in a 2-0 win for the Dodgers. While being part of a team win was a highlight, the best moment for Verdugo came when fans serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” in the third inning.
“It was amazing,” Verdugo said. “Left-center kind of started it, then right-center joined into it. It was one of those things, I’m not too sure how many people joined in but it was definitely loud.”
Verdugo on multiple occasions turned to the pavilion to show gratitude. “I heard it throughout the whole stadium, so I had to show them some love since they were showing me love. It was special,” he said.
As one might suspect, the experience was a first for Verdugo, whether in Little League or the Minors. “It’s definitely the most people I’ve ever had sing happy birthday to me,” he said with a smile.
The rookie outfielder has quickly formed a strong bond with the Dodger Stadium faithful. Some of it stems from Verdugo embracing his Mexican heritage and using “Volver, Volver” by Vicente Fernandez as his walk-up song.
But that would be selling Verdugo short. Making an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, he accepted a role off the bench and made the most of pinch-hit opportunities. That began to garner attention from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who hinted at increased playing time.
The best fans in baseball just sang Happy Birthday to Alex Verdugo…during the game. pic.twitter.com/6CKMZGyc5F
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 16, 2019
While it was trending in that direction, A.J. Pollock was forced to undergo surgery on his right elbow. Pollock is expected to remain sidelined into July, which has led to Verdugo assuming an everyday role in center field.
Teammates have raved about the energy and exuberance the 23-year-old has, which has come with maturation. “He’s no longer the top prospect, he’s a Major League player now, which is good,” Roberts said. “He is very mature on the baseball-side of things. I love Alex. He’s definitely grown in all aspects. As far as baseball, he’s very mature.”