“It changed the course of a lot of things for me,” said Matranga. “I played (professional baseball) for 12 years. Some people can say I was one of the fortunate ones.”1
Matranga was born on January 8, 1977 in Orange, California, to Dan and Linda Matranga. Dan was an insurance agent and Linda was a homemaker. Matranga has a brother, Robert.
Matranga was a standout at Orange High School, less than three miles from Anaheim Stadium. As a senior he batted .494 with 3 home runs and 24 RBIs and was named second-team All-Orange County by the Los Angeles Times.
After his senior season, Matranga was named to the USA Baseball Junior (Under-18) team. The 18-member team played 16 games in 24 days with the schedule capped by its 10-0 victory over Taiwan at Fenway Park in Boston.
As a freshman in 1996 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, Matranga earned honorable mention All-West Coast Conference honors after batting .292 while playing second base for the Waves. After his freshman season, he played in the Alaska Summer League.
Going into his sophomore season, Matranga was moved from second base to shortstop.
“He’s a player we are building around,” said Pepperdine coach Frank Sanchez. “He is an outstanding college shortstop.”2
As a sophomore, Matranga batted .305 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs in 59 games and was named first-team All-West Coast Conference. After the season, he played on Team USA.
As a junior Matranga batted .299 in 50 games for the Waves. He was selected by the Houston Astros in the sixth round of the June amateur draft. He signed and was assigned to Auburn (New York) of the Class-A New York-Penn League. His professional career got off to a good start as he hit .306 with 4 home runs, 24 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases in 40 games.
Matranga spent his second professional season with Kissimmee (Florida) of the Class-A Florida State League, where he batted .231 with 6 home runs, 48 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases in 124 games.
In 2000 Matranga was promoted to Round Rock (Texas) of the Double-A Texas League. He batted .233 with 6 home runs and 44 RBIs in 120 games. The team, in its inaugural season, won the Texas League championship, broke the Double-A single-season attendance record and was named the top team in minor-league baseball by Baseball America.
Matranga returned to Round Rock in 2001. In July he was hitting .315 when he was promoted to Triple-A New Orleans. He went 5-for-16 with a home run and three RBIs in four games with the Zephyrs before being sent back to Round Rock. He finished the season with a .302 batting average, 10 home runs, 60 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases in 103 games with the Express. Matranga was named a Double-A All-Star.
Matranga spent the 2002 season with New Orleans, batting .273 in 101 games. He returned to New Orleans for the 2003 season. The season included two brief stays in the major leagues. In May Matranga was recalled and, without seeing any action, was returned to New Orleans a day later. A month later he was summoned by the Astros again after they placed second baseman Jeff Kent on the disabled list with a wrist injury. Matranga arrived in Houston and made his major-league debut the same day.
On June 27 the slumping Texas Rangers, who had lost 12 consecutive road games and were 29-48, and the Astros, who were just 5-9 in their previous 14 games, opened a three-game interleague series with a day game.
The Astros, who had swept a three-game series from the Rangers the previous week in Arlington, scored two runs in the first inning and one in the second to open a 3-0 lead. After the Rangers scored twice in the top of the fourth to make the score 3-2, Matranga was sent to pinch-hit for pitcher Kirk Saarloos. But Matranga’s first major-league at-bat had to wait an inning after the third out of the inning was made with Matranga on deck.
The Rangers took a 4-3 lead with two runs in the top of the fifth inning. Rookie reliever Nate Bland relieved Saarloos during the inning. With Bland scheduled to lead off the Astros’ fifth inning, Matranga was again sent up to pinch-hit.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Matranga, using a bat he borrowed from New Orleans teammate Alan Zinter and brought with him, lined a 1-and-1 fastball from Rangers starter Joaquin Benoit to left for a solo home run. The home run tied the score, 4-4. The Rangers scored a run in the sixth inning and then extended their lead to 8-4 (in an eventual 10-7 victory) on a three-run home run by Rafael Palmeiro in the seventh. It was the 508th career home run for Palmeiro.
Matranga became the 84th major leaguer – the second in Astros history – to hit a home run in his first major-league at-bat. (The first was Jose Sosa in July of 1975.)
After playing in five more games (going hitless in four at-bats). Matranga was returned to New Orleans. His season totals for the Zephyrs were a .241 batting average and 3 home runs and 25 RBIs in 102 games.
Matranga spent the 2004 season with Round Rock, hitting .242 with 7 home runs and 48 RBIs in 112 games. After the season, he became a free agent and signed with the Anaheim Angels. He was placed on the Angels’ 40-man roster and went to spring-training camp. When the Angels played host to the Los Angeles Dodgers in an exhibition game at Anaheim Stadium on April 1, Matranga pinch-hit in the eighth inning to fulfill a promise he had made to his father.
“To just walk in the clubhouse and be a part of this team and see my name on the back of a uniform means a whole lot,” said Matranga. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”3
When he was 5 years old, Matranga and his father attended an Angels game and David vowed he would play for the Angels. He played the game with a picture of his father, who died in 1998, taped inside his cap.
Matranga started the 2005 season with Triple-A Salt Lake. On April 28 the Angels recalled
him after placing Maicer Izturis on the disabled list. Matranga joined the team for the final game of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. The Angels played six games in Minnesota and Seattle before returning home for a three-game series with Detroit.
In the series finale, a 10-1 victory for the Tigers, Matranga made his American League debut. He entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth, he grounded out to shortstop for the final out of the game.
Three days later Matranga was sent back to Salt Lake. In early July he was taken off the Angels’ 40-man roster and designated for assignment. He accepted the assignment and rejoined Salt Lake. For the season, he batted .243 in 55 games with Salt Lake.
Matranga spent the next four seasons as a utility infielder at the Triple-A level with four different organizations.
In 2006 with San Diego’s Portland farm team, he batted .219 in 91 games. In 2007, with Oklahoma (Texas Rangers), he batted .266 in 77 games. He spent 2008 with Omaha (Kansas City), hitting .269 in 61 games. In 2009 he returned to New Orleans (now a Florida Marlins farm team), hitting .272 in 95 games.
After the 2009 season, Matranga considered continuing his career in Japan. He had negotiations with the Yomiuri Giants before deciding to retire.
Over 12 minor-league seasons, he batted .254 with 82 home runs, 433 RBIs, and 105 stolen bases in 1,097 games.
His major-league totals saw him play in both leagues, and 1-for-6 as a batter. He played second base for a total of five innings in three games, handling five chances without an error.
Matranga’s agent, Page Odle, who had played at Oral Roberts University and for three seasons in the minor leagues, offered Matranga a job with Odle’s firm, PSI Sports Management.
Matranga has had a successful career as an agent and as of 2020 was the vice president of the firm, which is based in Southern California. Among the players the firm has represented are Kole Calhoun, Aaron Judge, Scott Kingery, and Kolten Wong.
“Going back to that home run, and what I did in the big leagues, in such a small moment in time – it’s affected my entire life,” Matranga said. “It’s affected how I’ve been able to relate and communicate with people on this side of the game. The respect that you get from doing something like that, from just getting there. Being a minor leaguer versus a guy who got to the big leagues, even if it was for only (six) at-bats, you have a different sort of credibility.”4
Including Matranga, only 22 players made their one major-league hit a home run. And only four of those players homered in their first major-league at-bat: Luke Stuart in 1921, Mark Worrell in 2008, Eddy Rodriguez in 2012, and Matranga.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, and Retrosheet.org.
1 Andy McCullough, “Before He Was Aaron Judge’s Agent, David Matranga Was a Literal One-Hit Wonder,” theathletic.com, April 9, 2020.
2 Steve Henson, “Diamond in the Rough,” Los Angeles Times, January 30, 1997: 46.
3 Bill Shaikin and Ben Bolch, “Team, City Discuss a Settlement,” Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2005.