A dream for William Contreras: Walk-off hit with parents watching

Atlanta Braves William Contreras singles to bring in the winning run in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves William Contreras singles to bring in the winning run in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Credit: AP

After Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper shocked the Braves with a mammoth two-run home run to take a late 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth, the Braves had just three outs between them and a series loss to the Phillies. In the bottom of the inning, the offense found its spark, first on timely hitting from shortstop Dansby Swanson and then on a sacrifice fly from outfielder Ronald Acuña that somehow found the grass between two Philadelphia outfielders, tying the game.

That sequence sent up designated hitter William Contreras, who was 0-for-4 in the game with three strikeouts and had never hit a walk-off in his career.

“I felt like, ‘this is the moment right here,’” Contreras said through translator Franco García. “I looked at Ronald and motioned to him, ‘this is it right now, we’re going to win it right here, so get ready.’”

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With the count at 1-1, Contreras timed up a changeup from Phillies reliever Nick Nelson and sent it to center field. The single drove in Acuña for the decisive run in a 6-5 victory, evening the series and moving the Braves into a tie with Philadelphia for second place in the NL East.

“I’ve always dreamed about hitting a walk-off,” Contreras said. “It’s the first time in my career that it’s happened. I feel extremely grateful and thankful to God.”

The moment was even more special for Contreras because his parents, William Contreras and Olga Castillo, were in attendance and seeing him live for the first time in MLB action. He called the moment “beyond emotional” and credited them with helping his dream come to fruition.

“Honestly, there aren’t words for it,” Contreras said. “Myself and my brother, we’re both here because of the sacrifices they made for us and for all their constant support.”

While this was Contreras’ first walk-off, the 24-year-old has been a productive member of the Braves’ defense and lineup. Primarily a catcher, Contreras was behind home plate in wins against the Marlins and the Brewers, but moved to left field in the series opener against Philadelphia. Offensively, he is tied for third on the Braves with six home runs and entered Tuesday’s game with a .270 batting average.

Braves 6, Phillies 5

Braves starter Max Fried has seen the most growth in Contreras’ game in his confident swings and resilience, especially on Tuesday night.

“From the time he first got called up to now, he’s just a lot more confident,” Fried said. “He’s up there and he knows that he can get the job done. He knows if he gets put behind the dish or he’s up there at bat, he’s going to be able to contribute.”

Along with learning from the veteran presences in the clubhouse, Contreras said that he’s appreciated the support of his older brother, Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. He said that the advice he’s appreciated most from Willson was the exact mindset that helped him score a walk-off win.

“His best advice was to never give up and to keep hitting,” Contreras said. “Today’s a perfect example of it. You start doubting yourself and thinking, ‘this is one of those days where things aren’t going my way.’ Fortunately I was able to come up in that spot and it worked out for me.

“It goes to show if you don’t give up and keep fighting, good things can happen for you.”