Paul DeJong was born in Orlando, but at a young age his family moved to Illinois and he went on to play his collegiate baseball at Illinois State University. The St. Louis Cardinals weren't quite a hometown team, but they also weren't far from it.
DeJong grew up about five hours from Busch Stadium and it took him just two years to get there after the Cardinals grabbed him in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He ended up playing nearly 700 games for the Cardinals. He was a Rookie of the Year candidate. He was an All-Star. He also signed a long-term extension before he even had a full year of service time.
"It's a first-class organization and exactly where I want to be long-term," DeJong said after he signed a six-year deal in 2018.
DeJong came close to getting through all six years, but the Cardinals played shockingly bad baseball in the first half. At the deadline they sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays, who needed a boost after losing shortstop Bo Bichette to an injury. DeJong wasn't able to provide it, going 3-for-44 before he was cut loose, but perhaps that shouldn't be all that much of a surprise when looking back at his career.
That trade was the first big move of DeJong's professional life. A day before he turned 30, he was sent to the other league and another country, and he never found his comfort zone. He sure looks comfortable in orange and black, though.
DeJong hit a two-run homer in his second at-bat as a Giant and then smoked a two-run single up the middle in the 10th to give San Francisco the lead and ultimately an 8-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He admitted that everything in Toronto "happened quick" during an interview on NBC Sports Bay Area's "Giants Postgame Live."
San Francisco Giants
"I was out of St. Louis in a couple hours; I didn't have much closure," DeJong said. "But this time I was able to kinda prepare a little bit more and get out of here and the guys have been great. This has been great."
DeJong's first game came 13 years to the day after Cody Ross made his first appearance for the Giants. When you think about a veteran middle infielder making an impact, perhaps Marco Scutaro in 2012 is a better comparison.
Either would be a tremendous outcome, and right now the Giants don't need tremendous. They simply need to be competent at short.
DeJong's homer was the first by a Giants shortstop since deadline day and just the second since May 11. He had the first four-RBI game by a Giants shortstop this year and tied his hit total from that brief stint in Toronto.
The Giants will be without Brandon Crawford (forearm strain) for at least another week, and they're not quite sure what they'll get from the veteran when he's back. Casey Schmitt has struggled and Marco Luciano is hurt. Johan Carmargo is now gone, and the staff much prefers to keep Thairo Estrada at second base.
For now, the Giants just need DeJong to lengthen the lineup and provide good defense -- which he also did Wednesday -- at a position of need. Their shortstops rank last in the big leagues in wrC+ and 27th in WAR, so it's not a high bar. On his first day, DeJong cleared it easily and repeatedly.
"I don't think he could have come up any bigger throughout the game," manager Gabe Kapler told reporters in Philadelphia.
DeJong's third hit helped the Giants escape with a win on a day when Camilo Doval became the first pitcher in franchise history to blow a save in four consecutive appearances. They're limping home, and they now have to face the league-leading Atlanta Braves again.
The road ahead isn't any easier, but the only thing that matters right now is stacking wins, and the 66th of the season allowed the Giants to keep pace in the back-and-forth NL wild-card race. Three weeks ago, DeJong thought he would be helping the Blue Jays win a wild-card spot in the other league.
"It's been a whirlwind for me," he said. "I'm just happy to be here and help the team."