Making a MLB debut under any circumstances is pretty cool. Fighting through a two-runners-on jam for an extra-innings save in your debut is even cooler. And that’s the context that led to Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Ricky Karcher giving a remarkable post-game interview to Jim Day of Bally Sports Ohio Monday night after their 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals, with the whole team staying in the dugout to watch:

Day asks “How does this feel right now?” and Karcher responds “It’s like a movie, bro. It doesn’t even feel real, man. It’s incredible. Holy s***.” Day laughs and the broadcast booth cracks up, then Day keeps rolling with “All right, live TV, we’re on cable. How were you able to manage through that?” Karcher says “I don’t know, man. Confidence in my slider, I guess, I, uh,” and then he gets a Gatorade bath from his teammates.

Day then says “All right, that had to feel good. You mention confidence in your slider,” and Karcher says “I don’t know, I just figured it out. I don’t know.” Day then says “You came in, this is your major-league debut. When you got the call—I mean, they are chanting ‘Ricky’ right now—what’s this like?” Karcher responds “It’s incredible, man. I’m at a loss for words. I don’t even know what to say.”

Day says “I’m not sure I’ve seen a scene like this for a major league debut, where you’ve got your team and this crowd up here. But when you got the call, I’m sure you didn’t think this was going to be the situation for your major-league debut.” Karcher responds “I would have hoped that it was. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, 3-2 count. I don’t know, I didn’t expect it, but it’s incredible.”

Day then asks “What was going through your mind? Obviously, you were having trouble locating the fastball. You were way out of the zone. What was going through your mind, and how were you able to pull it in and get those three outs?” Karcher says “I don’t know, man. I just threw my slider and got out of it.”

Day then says “One final question. You came in with a smile. Curt Casali, the veteran, comes to the mound [to congratulate Karcher after the win]. What was that conversation like?” Karcher says “That was just, he just said ‘We gotta work on the fastball.’ So, I mean, that’s all he said. But it was awesome.”

It was quite the memorable performance for the 25-year-old Karcher. Cincinnati manager David Bell sent him in for the bottom of the 10th, following a heavy day for the bullpen after starter Luke Weaver was pulled in the fifth inning. The Reds were up a run at that point thanks to automatic runner TJ Friedl advancing to third on a Matt McLain groundout and then scoring (he was initially called out, but that was overturned on a replay review) on a Jonathan India grounder.

That led to Karcher’s entrance. And it let to quite the advice to him from 34-year-old catcher Casali (who himself only entered the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement, following starter Luke Maile being lifted for a pinch-hitter, and had never caught Karcher before). Here’s more on that from C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic:

“The first thing I told him when he got on the mound before he started: ‘Congratulations. You did it — you’re here,’” Casali said. “‘Go have some fun. Things are dicey as they are right now. Got a guy on second base, tight game. But try to enjoy it as much as you possibly can because you only get one.’”

Karcher walked the first batter he saw, Royals’ speedster Bobby Witt Jr., but then got Michael Massey to fly out to center after two failed bunt attempts. He then fell behind 3-0 to Edward Olivares, but Olivares then committed a pitch-clock violation to make it 3-1. Karcher then got another strike on him, and Olivares then popped out to third.

But Kansas City executed a successful double steal during Olivares’ at-bat, meaning there were runners on second and third with two out and Maikel Garcia coming up. Garcia’s at-bat also resulted in a full count, and he then swung at a pitch that would have been ball four and flied out to left field to end the game. That gave Karcher this great MLB debut. And Karcher and Casali both had some good lines afterwards, as Rosecrans relayed:

“I did have a moment, like, when I thought that I might go in that I, like, started to get a little bit emotional and stuff, which I thought was cool because that doesn’t happen to me a whole lot,” Karcher said. “But I’ve worked my whole life for this day. It’s awesome.”

…“I’m sure I’ve had some pretty loony games back there, but just coming in, not starting the game, coming in and unfortunately giving up a game-tying homer,” Casali said. “Guy pitching his debut with a one-run lead. It was tough. I’m not going to say it was easy. Most importantly, we got the win, and I don’t want to do that again.”

Karcher was selected by the Reds in the 13th round of the 2017 MLB draft. That came after he spent a season with the Michigan Wolverines, then transferred to Walters State Junior College in Tennessee. Since then, Karcher has worked his way through the Cincinnati minor league system, including shifting from a starting role to the bullpen in 2021. He’s shown promise with both his fastball and slider, but has had issues with control on the fastball in particular. And that’s made his continued use of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” known for its use by Ricky Vaughn in Major League, very appropriate entrance music: Casali even said afterwards “That fastball was Wild Thing tonight.” But while Monday had some rough spots for Karcher, it wound up being an incredible debut, and one with his parents in the stands watching (they’d been at every game since his Friday callup). And that led to an incredible post-game interview as well.

[The Athletic; image via Awful Announcing on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.