ST. LOUIS — Just when Cardinals rookie Juan Yepez thought hitting the first home run of his MLB career on Mother’s Day in front of his parents was going to be the best part of his day, he found out otherwise when he opened Instagram.
It was then that the hot-hitting Cardinal realized a life-long dream as he saw a direct message from Venezuelan countryman and boyhood idol, Miguel Cabrera.
“He actually congratulated me on my first home run when he texted me on Instagram, so that was like a dream come true,” said Yepez, who hit the second home run of his career Wednesday when the Cardinals routed the Orioles 10-1.
“I was like, ‘Dang, my favorite player of all time is actually following me and texting me!’ For sure, that blows my mind.”
Yepez, who was promoted last week in hopes that his bat would breathe some life in the Cardinals struggling offense, has done just that at a near historical level. Not only does the 24-year-old have a hit in all seven of his games thus far, Yepez also notched his fifth multi-hit game Wednesday while playing as the starting left fielder. His 412-foot home run — which left the bat at 103.7 mph — kickstarted the Cardinals’ offense Wednesday and paved the way for a 10-run, 11-hit output.
“He does change the energy,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “Any time you bring that level of production, it changes the energy. You can tell just the way in the on-deck circle, while going to the plate, each at-bat is personal to him. You can tell he’s a kid who’s been told a long time that this was impossible. He’s enjoying proving a lot of people wrong.”
How good has Yepez been so far? In the first seven games of his MLB career, he has 12 hits — the same number that Hall of Famer Stan Musial had in his first seven games with the Cardinals in 1941. Only Bo Hart (18) and Enos Slaughter (13) have had more hits in the first seven games of their Cardinals career. A student of the game, Yepez did his homework recently in hopes of understanding why there’s a massive statue of the legendary Musial just outside of Busch Stadium.
“I mean, [Musial], I was looking at his numbers, and he was amazing!” Yepez said excitedly. “I don’t know, I’m just trying to play my game. I’m just thankful to God that the hits have been there. I have some hits that have been hard-hit hits and some bloop hits, but we’ll take all of them and be thankful.”
In addition to the congratulatory message he got from Cabrera, Yepez said the magnitude of what he is doing now hits him when he reads messages from his parents back in Caracas, Venezuela. Yepez said his parents have hosts of family and friends at their house to watch every Cardinals game on the MLB app, and the love they have sent back his way has awed him.
“A dream and a blessing,” he said. “I was talking to my parents [Tuesday] night, and they were like, ‘Son, we’ve been crying so much this week!’ Like I’ve said, everybody is really proud. It’s been a long way to come — eight years in the Minor Leagues — and to finally be here and having success is a dream.”