By the time the ball landed, it was nothing but dust in the wind.
It was all the way back in 2013 that Frank Schwindel was drafted out of college by the Kansas City Royals. He toiled through six minor league seasons before making his MLB debut on Opening Day 2019, but two weeks and 1-for-15 with a single later he was back in Triple-A, and a month after that the Royals released him.
After a brief tour in the Tigers farm system, Schwindel found his way to the Oakland A’s organization last winter as a spring non-roster invitee. The right-handed first baseman had a reputation for small strikeout rates and big power, always a promising combo, and upon his assignment to hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas this summer he blossomed to the tune of 16 homers in 44 games. On Tuesday, his 29th birthday, he got the call back to the majors.
The next day Schwindel started as the DH, his first action in the bigs in over two years and his first time in an Oakland uniform. In doing so, he became the 2,000th player in A’s franchise history.
Schwindel’s first at-bat came in the bottom of the 2nd inning, with a runner on first base, two out, and a run already home. When he stepped to the plate it was immediately apparent why he earned the nickname Frank The Tank as a prospect, as his 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame more than filled the batter’s box.
The first pitch from lefty Kolby Allard ran outside for Ball 1. The second pitch caught far too much of the inside corner, and Frank The Tank annihilated it. The ball went streaking over the foul pole and into the second deck, keeping its composure just long enough to satisfy the umpires for his first career dinger. Bring your green hat!
And I do mean over the foul pole, at a towering 36 degree launch angle, such that the umps had to stop and do a replay review just to see which side it sailed beyond. He stood at the plate for an extra moment after making contact, staring at it as if to telepathically will fair ball. The call was confirmed by the booth. You’re my boy, Blue!
Frank Schwindel said he had a "roller coaster of emotions" while awaiting the replay review of his dinger pic.twitter.com/f9HCgO6VyW— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 1, 2021
When I saw him hit it on the live broadcast, three words instinctively escaped my mouth and one was the f-word.
Moon must’ve knocked it down— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) July 1, 2021
Statcast later corrected that reading to 411 feet, which still seems short as that ball looked like it was going 600 when it came off the bat at its 108 mph exit velocity.
What’s more, it proved to be the eventual game-winner, as it made the difference in a 3-1 victory. Naturally, the rookie was awarded the post-game Team Trident. Truly an old-school weapon they’ve chosen as their clubhouse trophy.
Frank Sch indel gets his first homer and first postgame bath pic.twitter.com/r4ark1Un7O— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 1, 2021
The last player to homer in his first at-bat for the A’s was Ben Zobrist in 2015, and the last to do so for his first career homer was Terry Steinbach back in 1986, reports official scorer David Feldman. For some extra name fun, Zobrist’s blast came off Yovani Gallardo (which is Allard with a few extra letters), and Steiny hit his against reliever Greg Swindell (which is Schwindel spelled slightly different).
Really happy for Frank. He was fun to have in Omaha for a couple years...hit a bunch of homers in Triple-A, and didn't get much opportunity at the Big League level. He was definitely frustrated at times. Great to see his perseverance pay off. https://t.co/x3NehwXgU2— Donny Baarns (@DonnyBaarns) July 1, 2021
It’s been a long wait for Schwindel, taking until his ninth professional season, as his dreams passed before his eyes. The pitcher he hit it off, Allard, was a sophomore in high school when Schwindel was drafted out of college. But Frank The Tank has finally gone deep in the major leagues. Hopefully he’s not here to do just one, because once it hits your bat, it’s so good.