At seven o’ clock this morning, Chicago Cubs top prospect Starlin Castro , a 20-year-old shortstop, received a call from the big club. His baseball life was about to change, and his dream was about to come true. He was told to travel to Cincinnati, where Chicago were to take on the Reds that afternoon, and did so giddily to find out he was in the starting lineup batting eighth.

Castro began in the Cubs organization at 18, shot through their rookie league in 2008, breezed through Single-A in 2009, possessing the speed, glove, and offensive ability of a talent near Major League-ready. He began this season in Double-A, and few wondered prior to this year whether he could make the opening day roster. He was considered to be that good.

Scuffling so poorly to begin the season that ace Carlos Zambrano was moved into the bullpen to try to stop the bleeding, the 13-16 Cubs thought it the right time to start Castro’s clock and add the unquestionable jolt he would bring. And did he ever provide the spark they were looking for.

His first at-bat came against Homer Bailey in the second inning. His helmet  appeared a tad too big. His jersey was loose. He looked 20 years old, baby-faced, and nervous beyond belief. Reality had just hit him, but the butterflies in his stomach didn’t keep him from pulling a Jason Heyward .

After Alfonso Soriano had walked and Geovany Soto had singled, Castro stepped in and took a fastball high to begin his major-league career at the plate. He was extremely patient, taking two strikes then a fastball just off the corner before taking his first swing.

A curveball from Bailey hung over the middle and, with a fluid right-handed stroke, he nailed the offering and watched it crawl over the right-field fence . Amidst cheers from the Cubs fans in attendance, he rounded the bases having just hit a three-run homer. His first swing. His first at-bat. Not a bad how-do-you-do to the big club.

Some teams give rookies the silent treatment after such a memorable moment. When John Mayberry Jr. hit his first home run as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, he walked into the dugout and gave out phantom high-fives as his teammates either hung nonchalantly on the rail or sat on the bench. Then he was mobbed, congratulated as a veteran would.

The Cubs took an entirely different approach. A franchise that hasn’t had much to celebrate in the past 102 years certainly basked in Castro’s blast, gleefully greeting him at the top steps of the dugout; patting him on the back and handing out a galore of high-fives. What a moment for the young kid. And for desperate Chicago as well.

After lining out in the fourth inning, the Cubs would have more to celebrate in the fifth. Bailey walked the first two hitters of the frame and then Micah Owings made a mess in relief. He loaded the bases by allowing a single to Aramis Ramirez then re-loaded them by walking Soto to force in a run. Now, with two out and the sacks packed, Castro stepped in, ready to take his hacks once more.

He continued to possess incredible plate discipline, working the count full before continuing the Reds and particularly Owings nightmare. Owings grooved a fastball right down the pipe and, upon striding powerfully, Castro tagged the mistake into the left-center gap.

Sprinting around the bases with lightning-fast speed, he witnessed all three baserunners score , then popped up from his slide into third for a triple and dusted himself off to cheers from the bounty of Chicago fans that made the pilgrimage to Cincy.

Even if the Cubs lose the next two games in the series, their travels certainly were not in vain. They saw Castro knock in six and be the catalyst behind the Cubs eventual 14-7 romp .

He would do nothing else at the plate in his debut and would see only five pitches in his final two at-bats, but his debut was one he will never forget. And, if this debut is any indication, before his career is done he will be as memorable as his amazing welcome to the majors was.

The debut’s rbi-total was the most since Ben Grieve scored five in 1997 with Oakland. Manager Lou Piniella after the game : “The kid—what a debut! He’s got to be ecstatic. He should be.”

Castro on his amazing debut: “I didn’t believe it.”

Read more MLB news on