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Kathy Willens: AP

Only 22 games into the 2007 season, Hunter Pence (Highland Park Blue Sox – 2004) got his shot to prove his talent on a major level.  On Saturday April 28th against the Brewers, the UT-Arlington grad became the first position player player in Texas Collegiate League history to play in the MLB.  Seattle Mariners’ pitcher Mark Lowe, also from the Highland Park Blue Sox and UT-Arlington, was the first TCL alum to don a major league uniform in June 2006.

But, Pence wasn't just in uniform, he started in center against the Brewers.  The Astros purchased the contract of Pence from Triple-A Round Rock and informed Chris Burke that he would be used in a utility role. Pence did not disappoint in his debut, helping his team end their seven game losing streak beating the Brewers 10-1.  

The 24 year-old outfielder
was calm and collected when arriving at the ballpark to a crowd of media reporters waiting to speak to him. He assured everyone that he understands his role and is very excited to get the opportunity to play in the big leagues.

The Arlington, Texas native, who batted sixth in the Astros’ lineup, struck out looking in his first at-bat off Brewers right-hander Dave Bush, but ensured he was a tough out by fighting off 12 pitches in the process.  Pence was hit by a pitch in his next at-bat.  Then, in the sixth inning, the TCL alum singled to mark his first big-league hit.  He also made a spectacular catch in center in the sixth, dashing to the warning track to rob Brewer first baseman Prince Fielder of a hit.

The Astros’ front office found it difficult to ignore Pence after a tremendous spring (team high .571 average with four doubles, two home runs and nine RBI) and solid play for Round Rock (.341 average over 22 games).  The second-round selection by the Astros in 2004 also earned All-Star honors in 2006, batting .283 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI at Double-A Corpus Christi.

Although his time in the TCL was short due to the MLB draft, Pence enjoyed his time in the league and is grateful for the chance to play.

”I enjoyed my opportunity to play in the TCL and they treated me great.  It is definitely one of the top summer leagues around,” Pence said.

You can watch Pence and Astros face the Brewers again on Sunday to round out the series at 1:05 CST and it will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net. 

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