Third in his family to try, Royals catcher Cam Gallagher makes big league debut

Royals rookie Cam Gallagher 'didn't have much time' to get nervous in debut

Royals catcher Cam Gallagher made his major-league debut in the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Mariners on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium
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Royals catcher Cam Gallagher made his major-league debut in the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Mariners on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium

The first time catcher Cam Gallagher batted behind Royals left fielder Alex Gordon in a lineup was at Class AA Northwest Arkansas.

It was June 19, 2016. Gordon had just begun a rehab assignment after sustaining a fracture in his right wrist. Gallagher went 1 for 4 that night in Springdale, Ark., another average night in the middle of a season during which he batted .259.

One year, 1 month and 18 days later, Gallagher, 24, found himself in the same position. Only this time, he was hitting ninth in the Royals’ lineup, making his first major-league start in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader with the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium.

“I actually was thinking about it today,” Gallagher said. “I saw the lineup and I saw him go up to the plate, and I was like, ‘Man, this looks familiar.’ ”

Gallagher went 1 for 3 with a walk and a leadoff single as he debuted for the Royals in place of the injured Salvador Perez. He also guided spot starter and long-time teammate Jakob Junis through an eight-inning masterpiece. Junis struck out seven, and five of those Mariners were caught looking in the Royals’ 9-1 victory.

Gallagher did all that in front of his family and two close friends, a group of five people from Lancaster, Pa., who dropped all responsibilities to make it to Kansas City.

“We made reservations for the flight at 1:20 (p.m. on Saturday) and were out the door at 1:30,” said Glenn Gallagher, Cam’s father. “We had to get to Philadelphia first. We just made the flight.”

The entire Gallagher clan was last here six years ago, when Cam signed his first professional contract after being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft.

The Gallaghers thought they might have arrived earlier in this home stand. The promise of Cam’s first call-up had been dangled in front of the family nearly two weeks ago, when Perez exited a game in Detroit on July 25 because of discomfort in his right side.

Cam would have been the first Gallagher to debut in the majors. His older brother, Austin, played in the Dodgers’ organization from 2007 to 2012. Their father pitched in Toronto’s minor leagues in the 1980s, until a rotator cuff injury in his fourth season.

Cam’s debut didn’t pan out in July. Perez remained on the 25-man roster.

“We couldn’t get excited until we actually saw that he was activated (this time),” Glenn Gallagher said.

Once the roster move was made Sunday morning, the emotions started flowing. By the time Cam stepped out of the dugout in the ninth inning of Sunday’s first game, his mother Gwen couldn’t hold the tears back.

“I was really trying not to let that happen,” she said.

At the same time, some hundred feet away from section 230, Cam Gallagher was getting his nerves under control. The Royals were losing 8-7 in the first game of the doubleheader, and reliever Brandon Maurer was tasked to hold that margin. Gallagher had never caught Maurer before.

Danny Valencia led off the inning with a triple, but he never scored. Maurer retired three of the next four batters on softly hit ground balls.

Gallagher finally got his first taste of a major-league game. The butterflies could go dormant again.

It was a long time coming.

“It was always his dream,” Gwen Gallagher said. “Baseball was such a big part in our family all the time. (Glenn) coached at the college level, high school level. Even when they were little, following him as a coach, they were bat boys. We just always knew. … You always hope for that, and here it is.”