Texas Rangers

Parents snag two last-minute tickets from paradise to see Kiner-Falefa make MLB debut

Isiah Kiner-Falefa made his MLB debut Tuesday night for the Rangers, and his parents were in the stands all the way from Hawaii.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa made his MLB debut Tuesday night for the Rangers, and his parents were in the stands all the way from Hawaii. Special to the Star-Telegram

When Isiah Kiner-Falefa learned Monday night that there was a good chance he was going to be called up to the Texas Rangers, it was just turning Mai Tai hour in Hawaii.

Honolulu is where he's from and where his parents still live, and, as luck would have it, airlines run nighttime flights that can get two anxious parents to DFW Airport in time to see their son make his MLB debut the next day.

But Fili Falefa and Kimberly Kiner had gotten a jump on what might be ahead. They knew, thanks to the wonders of Twitter, that Isiah had been pulled from the game at Triple A Round Rock after his first at-bat and that Rougned Odor had left the Rangers' game because of a left hamstring injury.

They booked two tickets from paradise to what would become paradise for their son.

And they waited patiently through 11 Los Angeles Angels runs, not knowing if he would have to wait another day to play. But with the game out of hand and Rangers regulars needing to get off their feet, he popped out of the dugout to play second base for the final two innings.

"They just took a chance and caught a flight," said Kiner-Falefa, an infielder making the transition to catcher. "They flew last night. Once I came out of the game, they didn't want to miss it. They would rather just be here and pay the money and whatever happens happens."

His first big-league play was a bouncer off Bartolo Colon's glove for the ol' 1-4-3 putout, and he also cleanly snagged a Shohei Ohtani grounder and threw to first for the final out of the Angels' ninth.

Kiner-Falefa struck out in this first career at-bat to end the game, but, ultimately, what happened and when it happened and what the score was won't matter much.

"After the first play, everything just loosened up," he said. "Going up to the plate for the first time, I was just trying to enjoy the moment, especially with the situation of the game, just try to go soak it all in and have fun.

"The result wasn't it, but it's the first one. Get it out of the way. Anytime, it doesn't matter what the score, if you're playing in the big leagues, you're playing in the big leagues. The rest of my life I'm a big-leaguer. You know? I'm here."

He has the pictures with his parents, taken on the field after the game, to remember it forever.

"For them to drop everything they were doing and come out here meant a lot," Kiner-Falefa said. "They've had my back coming up the whole way, and just having them here meant the world."