Photo Credit: FAU Athletics
For one Florida Atlantic freshman baseball player, Feb. 20’s home opener against UCF offered a little bit more than a debut.
As freshman catcher Caleb Pendleton stepped up to the plate in the second inning, he arrived with a chance to break the game wide open for the Owls. With the bases loaded, Pendleton’s first at-bat came at a critical time, as FAU trailed by a run early.
Down to his final strike, the Jensen Beach, Fla. native saw a hittable pitch and drove the ball towards the left-field fence. The ball eventually left the field of play, giving Pendleton a home run on his first at-bat.
“I was a little nervous going into it. First two swings weren’t the best swings I’ve had. I kind of chased pitches outside of the zone. So, I got to two strikes, and I had to lock it in,” said Pendleton, recalling the moment. “I scooted up to the plate a little bit and tried to lock in and not chase a ball.”
Adjust, Pendleton would.
“I saw a curveball out of his hand and it kind of hung a little bit…,” he continued. “I didn’t know it was going out at first, and I was kind of praying that it was going out.”
What happened next, however, might be something more equipped for a movie script than reality.
Pendleton stepped back up to the plate in a similar situation, with the bases loaded once again. With two outs and the nowhere to put him, Pendleton came back up to the plate. And, as if attempting to prove déjà vu was more than a phenomenon, the freshman had almost the exact same result.
“Oh my gosh, he has done it again,” the Conference USA TV announcer said as the ball left Pendleton’s bat for a second time and sailed over the fence for a second grand slam.
“I tried to not think about [hitting another grand slam] because I didn’t want to try and do too much in that situation,” Pendleton said. “I wanted to tack on some more runs.”
Once again, his approach worked.
“I was just trying to stay within myself and I saw a fastball in a spot that I liked…,” he said. “It didn’t hit me until I got back to the dugout that I hit two grand slams in the same inning.”
👀 WATCH as @FAUBaseball's Caleb Pendleton hits not one, but TWO GRAND SLAMS IN ONE INNING 😶
…did we mention these were the true freshman's first two collegiate at-bats? #SCTop10 | @SportsCenter | @ESPNAssignDesk | @notthefakeSVP | #TheCUSAWay pic.twitter.com/YcJFs7FRXn
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) February 21, 2021
Not only were those his first two home runs in college but it was also his first grand slam throughout his playing career.
According to head coach John McCormack, the reactions in the dugout were as expected following the second grand slam.
“When he hit it, I was like, ‘you got to be absolutely kidding me’ because you just don’t see it [often]. And if you’re in the other dugout, you’re like ‘oh my god, fate has stepped in, we’re in trouble’,” said McCormack. “I remember the look on [freshman first baseman] Nolan Schanuel’s face. He was like, ‘are you kidding me?’ and looking around to other players like ‘are we really witnessing this?'”
While Florida Atlantic eventually pulled out a 20-15 victory, McCormack believes positive plays like the grand slams helped build up Pendleton’s confidence. The freshman catcher ended up catching five different pitchers.
“I think that got lost in the shuffle,” said McCormack. “Anytime you do anything positive, especially in your first Division I game … it helps you. But I thought he caught a really good game under some tough situations.”
Since the two grand slams, Pendleton has become a social media sensation. Pages like Bleacher Report, SportsCenter, and the Major League Baseball social media pages have since shared the video. The latter has amassed over 500,000 views as of Monday night. It’s safe to say that immediately following the moment, Pendleton became viral.
“I’ve always told my dad that it’s been a dream to be on SportsCenter Top 10 [Plays],” Pendleton said. “It was something I always wanted to do when I was younger, and so when I saw that, it was pretty crazy. … I never thought I’d be on SportsCenter Top 10.”
Pendleton is a part of a rare company of players. Fernando Tatis Sr. is the only MLB player to hit two grand slams in the same inning, accomplishing the feat in 1999. Tatis, however, hadn’t done it in his first two career at-bats (Tatis’ first at-bats came in 1997).
The number of MLB players to hit a grand slam in their first at-bat is almost just as exclusive. To date, only four MLB players have done such, with the most recent occurring in 2010 by Daniel Nava.
“Grand slams are far few between, and to see two in one inning, a lot of things have to go into effect for that to happen,” McCormack said. “Especially the second one because you rarely see 12 runs scored in an inning … It was quite amazing, quite amazing.”
For McCormack, who has seen his fair share of big-time debuts, Pendleton’s ranks among the best that he’s witnessed.
“I’ve gotten that question a lot, and there are others that come to mind, but this is unbelievable,” he said. “Truly unbelievable.”
Although it may only be down statistically for Pendleton, the focus for the freshman will have to turn to the remainder of the season.
“I gotta just stay within myself,” said Pendleton. “Probably something like that will never happen again for me. But stay within [me] and do what I need to do to help the team score runs.”
That, however, doesn’t mean that Pendleton won’t have a story to tell people for a long time.
“Before the second one, I was thinking that’s going to be something I tell my grandkids and everybody in the future,” he said. “And then, I didn’t think I was going to have a chance to come in and hit two grand slams in the same inning.”