Eric Jagielo has always dreamed of hitting a walk-off homer and models his game after New York third basemen David Wright and Alex Rodriguez. After meeting Rodriguez earlier this year, Jagielo crossed the walk-off part off his list Sunday night.
The Yankees' 2013 first-round Draft pick capped his first career four-hit game with an 11th-inning home run to give short-season Staten Island a 3-2 victory over Tri-City at Richmond County Ballpark.
"I think that whenever it's extra innings you joke around when playing Wiffle ball or something," Jagielo said. "To have the opportunity to be up in that situation was great. I was lucky to be up in that situation and have a chance to put a good swing on it. You always think about it as a kid but never know if you're going to have a shot at it."
The 21-year-old infielder was able to pick up some advice from Rodriguez while the 14-time All-Star was rehabbing in Tampa.
"First and foremost, you have to be able to play defense every day," Jagielo said. "Secondly, pitch selection and hitting pitches you can drive and pitches you can do stuff with -- being more disciplined at the plate and all that stuff. Just stay consistent with your approach every day and what you do to get yourself ready for every game. Those are the three main things I took away from him."
The four-hit game was Jagielo's first since he was drafted 26th overall last month out of the University of Notre Dame. He fell a triple shy of the cycle and has homered in back-to-back games.
"I've felt better recently than I have in the past, before the New York-Penn League All Star Game. It's good to get back to how I felt and feel like you're seeing the ball well and putting good swings on the ball," he said. "I think I was just missing some pitches that you normally hit, not [many], I think the timing was just a little off. That comes with learning to play every day. I knew that there would be some failures and bumps in the road."
Jagielo posted a 1.133 OPS with 29 extra-base hits in 196 at-bats as a junior at Notre Dame. Last year, he had a .945 OPS and 28 extra-base hits in 229 at-bats.
"We're getting me to the point where it's not just a lucky game but getting back to who I am, going gap to gap with some power, too," Jagielo said. "I think that's what type of hitter they project me as and the type of hitter I see myself as. I'm not surprised by this at all. As I've matured, this is more the type of hitter I've become."
Playing in the game's biggest media market does not faze the native of Downers Grove, Ill.
"It was an unbelievable experience, something that I've always thought about, always dreamed of," Jagielo said. "Not only being a first-round pick but playing in New York, those are the games that are always highlighted on ESPN, and they're such a historic franchise and have a history of successful teams in this organization.
"Being from Notre Dame, there's so many parallels from Notre Dame to the Yankees. I was hoping I'd fall to them and was their pick and they'd take me. There were so many emotions going through my head when it happened, it was a dream come true."
Jagielo has enjoyed the transition to the life of a professional baseball player.
"It's definitely something I'm getting used to now," he said. "I love it and am happy with the decision [to sign with the Yankees]. I can't wait to keep playing and getting better and learning new things every day."
Mike Ford went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and two RBIs for Staten Island. The non-drafted free agent has reached base in six straight games.
Dillon McNamara (4-3) picked up the win, working around a walk in a scoreless 11th.
Brandon Simes is contributor to MiLB.com.