Ault during his time at Texas Tech
March 9, 1950|
|Died: December 22, 2004
Tarpon Springs, Florida
|September 9, 1976, for the Texas Rangers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 5, 1980, for the Toronto Blue Jays|
|Runs batted in||86|
Douglas Reagan Ault (March 9, 1950 – December 22, 2004) was an American professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter who played for the Texas Rangers (1976) and Toronto Blue Jays (1977–1978, 1980). He is best known for playing in the Blue Jays first Major League Baseball (MLB) game on April 7, 1977, against the Chicago White Sox. Ault hit the first two home runs in franchise history, helping Toronto win 9–5.
A native of Beaumont, Texas, Ault was a varsity baseball star at Texas Tech. He was drafted three different times in the MLB Draft, but refused to sign. He was finally signed by the hometown Rangers in 1973 as an amateur free agent. He advanced relatively quickly though the Minor League hierarchy, making the Majors in 1976 as a late season replacement. With the Rangers already having Mike Hargrove at first base, Ault became available in the 1976 Major League Baseball expansion draft where he was drafted by the Blue Jays. He became the starting first baseman in their first ever MLB game, and his actions that day turned Ault into the Blue Jays first superstar. He couldn't exceed the expectations given to him, and had an otherwise average career as a result and was out of the Majors within three years.
He managed in the Minor Leagues for several years, leading the Syracuse Chiefs to a pennant in 1985. He retired in 1994, and went to the automobile business, but a series of personal tragedies and business failures plagued him in later life. Ault committed suicide on December 22, 2004.
Doug Ault was born in Beaumont, Texas. When he was young, Ault credited his eldest sister Brenda as his main influence in baseball, for training him every day at the local baseball park and attending all his games as an amateur. He was varsity baseball star at Texas Tech. He was drafted on three different occasions, by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1969, the San Diego Padres in the second round in the 1970 January secondary draft, and again by the Cleveland Indians in the 1970 June secondary draft, but never signed. While at Texas Tech he hit .473 his senior year and was named to the 1972 College Baseball All-America Team.
He was signed by the Rangers in 1973 as an amateur free agent. He was sent to Gastoria in the Western Carolina League where he led the league in home runs with 19 in his first season playing professionally. Within the next few years, Ault became a top prospect. In 1976, Ault played in 143 games for the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League leading the league in runs with 112 and total bases (278) while finishing third in home runs (25), and hits (168). Meanwhile, he worked the off-season in an oil-platform.
Major League Career (1976–1980)
Texas Rangers (1976)
Ault made his Major League Baseball debut with the Texas Rangers on September 9, 1976, and in his first at-bat, he struck out against Dave Goltz of the Minnesota Twins in the second inning. Ault later singled in the fifth inning off Goltz to record his first career hit. However, the Rangers lost to the Twins 6-0. Ault finished the season appearing in nine games with the Rangers, hitting .300 with six hits in 20 at-bats.
Toronto Blue Jays (1977–1980)
On November 5, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Ault with the 32nd overall pick in the 1976 MLB expansion draft. He considered that day as "grateful" as it gave him an opportunity to play every day in the Majors, as he was blocked at first base by All-Star Mike Hargrove while at Texas. During spring training, Ault competed with veterans Nate Colbert and Ron Fairly for the starting first base position.
On April 7, 1977, Ault made history as the Blue Jays' starting first baseman in the team's first professional game. Their opponent that day was the Chicago White Sox. Over 44,000 fans attended the game, although a snowstorm threatened to delay it. In bottom of the first inning, Ault, batting third in the lineup, hit the first home run in the Blue Jays' history off White Sox starting pitcher Ken Brett. He hit another home run off Brett in the third inning to tie a Major League record for most home runs in a season opening game. Those two home runs were the first of his career, and he added another hit later on as the Blue Jays defeated the White Sox 9-5. Since then, George Bell of the Blue Jays broke the record in 1988 when he hit three home runs on opening day, and was matched by Tuffy Rhodes of the Chicago Cubs in 1994 and Dmitri Young of the Detroit Tigers in 2005. Ault was covered with "immediate acclaim and nationwide publicity" as a result of the feat.
He finished his rookie season hitting .245 with 11 home runs and 64 runs batted in (RBI) in 129 games. His 64 RBI tied Ault with Fairly to lead the Blue Jays in that category. His RBI total also was a Blue Jays rookie record until Eric Hinske drove in 84 runs in 2002.
He spent the entire 1979 season with the Syracuse Chiefs, the Blue Jays AAA affiliate, before re-appearing with the Blue Jays in 1980. In 64 games in 1980, Ault hit .194 with three home runs and fifteen runs batted in. All three home runs came against Cleveland at Municipal Stadium, in a series played in early August. Ault played his final career game with the Jays on October 5, 1980.
After his time with Toronto, Ault played with the Hanshin Tigers in the Japanese Central League in 1981, before returning to the Chiefs in 1982. Ault also spent some time with the Mexico City Tigres of the Mexican League in 1982.
Following his playing career, Ault served as a manager in the Blue Jays organization for the Single-A teams Dunedin, Kinston, Myrtle Beach and St. Catharines. He was promoted to manage his former club, the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs of the International League in 1985, where he managed them to a pennant that same season, the first in club history. As a result, he won the award for the International League Manager of the Year. He lasted with the Chiefs until 1987. In 1992, he won the South Atlantic League championship with the Myrtle Beach Hurricanes.
Later life and death
Ault and his first wife Julie had two children. They divorced in 1990. After finishing his managing career in 1994, Ault became a car dealer, first in Texas, and then in Clearwater, Florida, where he moved to be closer to the Blue Jays spring training site.
He married his second wife, Lynn Marie, an obstetrician, in 2000. In 2002, she lost her medical license for violating Florida statutes regarding patient safety; a year later, she filed bankruptcy. In January 2004, their home in Tarpon Springs, Florida was sold though a bankruptcy proceeding, and they were separated for "a while". A few months later, Ault's first wife Julie died, and he left his job at a Clearwater car dealership. According to some of his former teammates, at the time of his death "things were not going great" for Ault.
Ault died at his home in Tarpon Springs on December 22 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was ruled a suicide by the coroners office on December 28.
- Zwolinski, Mark; Baker, Geoff (December 29, 2004). "Ault's Death Ruled a Suicide. Ex Chiefs Manager Struggled to find a Niche for Himself After Coaching Days Ends". The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) – via HighBeam Research.
- Smith, Verenda. "Doug Ault is enthusiastic about fighting for a job on the Blue Jays.". St. Petersburg Times. p. 43. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
- "Doug Ault Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
- Stewart, Chuck (May 11, 1977). "Ault Relishes Acclaim". Spokane Daily News. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
- "1976 Pacific Coast League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference Minors. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
- James, Bill (1992). The Baseball Book 1992. Villard Books. p. 335.
- "Doug Ault, Former Chiefs Manager Dies". The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York). December 28, 2004 – via HighBeam Research.