QUEENS, New York — Just one borough away, Jason Vosler formed some of his most cherished memories with his father, Bob, going to games at the old Yankee Stadium and arriving when the gates opened with the hope of snagging a souvenir or two during batting practice.
It’s a story that resonates with any number of boys and their dads. So to stand out, Bob gave his son a piece of advice.
Don’t call them by their first name, call them “Mr. Whoever, can I get a ball?”
Called up before the Giants’ series-opening doubleheader against the Mets, you can bet Vosler tossed his fair share of batting practice baseballs into the stands at Citi Field Tuesday afternoon — though it probably wasn’t any of his 50-plus friends and family in attendance who were calling out, Mr. Vosler! Mr. Vosler!
To them, he’s Jason. (After all, his dad is Mr. Vosler.)
And to the Giants, he is a much-needed left-handed bat that they can slot in against the onslaught of tough right-handers they are set to face in this four-game series with the Mets, whose rotation full of right-handers owns the majors’ best ERA.
With Tylor Megill pitching for the Mets in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Vosler got the start at third base. To make room, San Francisco optioned right-handed-hitting utility man Luke Williams to Triple-A Sacramento.
Vosler, a native of West Nyack, New York, about 30 miles outside of the city, was inundated with text messages once he got the news Sunday morning that he would be joining the Giants for the first time this season, about as close to home as it gets. The only thing better for the childhood Yankees fan would have been a trip to the Bronx.
Vosler played a high school showcase at the new Yankee Stadium, but Tuesday marked his first time as a professional back in his hometown, even if it came in Flushing rather than across the East River at the ballpark he visited during his formative years.
Bob and mom Sue, as well as his girlfriend and a select few friends, were the lucky ones who were able to get connected with team-issued tickets on such late notice. The other few dozen in the stands Tuesday were on their own. But hey, anyone could get into this chilly doubleheader for as little as 20 bucks.
“If I was here all year and knew I was going to be here for three weeks, I would’ve started prepping for ticket requests. But I found out Sunday night and we were here Monday,” Vosler said. “I was like ‘Guys, this is going to be way too stressful to figure this all out.’ So I even told most of my family and friends, hey, look online, tickets are 20 bucks. If I knew somebody really couldn’t afford 20 bucks and wanted to see me, I would’ve left them tickets.”
The last-minute nature of Vosler’s arrival speaks to his role on the club.
Nobody went back-and-forth between San Francisco and Sacramento last season more than Vosler, and he is primed to fill a similar role again this season. Williams, his right-handed counterpart, got a taste of what life will be like this season after appearing in five games and driving in three runs during the first week and a half of the season but was sent packing in favor of better matchups.
Manager Gabe Kapler said Williams’ first few games in a Giants uniform were “universally positive across the board,” so expect to see him again this season. Williams was disappointed but not surprised to be sent down.
“I came into this season knowing that the Giants were going to make moves like that. Obviously I’d love to be here and keep helping the team but it is what it is,” Williams said. “I totally understand. think Vos can do a great job and hopefully keep it going. … People have expressed that I’ve done what I needed to do. It’s just the Giants like the matchups, and it’s worked out for them.”
The swap of Williams for Vosler, Kapler said, “exemplifies why a player like Jason Vosler is so important.
“You’re sensing a string of tough right-handed pitchers coming up and your bats are a little lopsided in the direction of righties. Not terribly lopsided, but to balance things, we needed one more left-handed bat.”
Vosler began the season with Triple-A Sacramento but wasn’t tearing the cover off the ball, with a .736 OPS in seven games.
However, after a change in his approach, he had hits in his past five games, including his first home run of the season Saturday. The next morning, he received the news that he was getting called up and spent all day traveling from Reno, Nevada, to New York.
In 41 games with the Giants last season — spread over every month of the season except September — Vosler slugged three home runs and came up with a few clutch hits. Kapler, who said he considers every player on the 40-man roster a part of the major-league club, is confident Vosler can do the same this season.
“It’s nice to know that you have a guy you can stick out there and you know what you’re going to get,” Kapler said. “A threat to hit a home run. A great teammate. A good defender. A heads up baserunner. Those guys are really valuable over the course of a major league baseball season.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism