For the Mets front office, the success of Marlon Byrd in 2013 may feel like the baseball equivalent of finding an original copy of the Declaration of Independence hidden behind a picture frame purchased at a yard sale. Following a 2012 season that saw Byrd bat a combined .210 with only one home run in limited play for the Cubs and Red Sox, the signing of the 35 year-old outfielder by the Mets in February to a minor league deal was hardly the marquee free agent signing of the off-season.
However, just past the halfway point of the season, Byrd leads the team with 17 home runs and 56 RBI, leading manager Terry Collins to declare after Saturday’s 5-4 victory over Philadelphia, “At the end of the year, you’re going to look back and name two or three guys that saved us and he’s (Byrd) going to be one of them.”
For Marlon Byrd, success in 2013 is about focus and hard work. Speaking with the Rockland County Times before Saturday’s game, the 12 year major league veteran was reviewing footage of his swing on his IPad to help reinforce the work he’s done with batting coach Dave Hudgens. Swinging a bat before a full length mirror, conditioning exercises, and batting at the indoor batting cage are part of his pregame preparations prior to taking the field.
Over the course of a long season, Byrd emphasized the need to stay “focused” and said a player has to, “Stay the course…and not get too high or too low.” Even thinking too far ahead can lead to a loss of focus. For example, his focus on Saturday was the Phillie starting pitcher Cole Hamels and his goal in spring training was to
make the team. He also expressed gratitude for the influence former teammates Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu, and Andruw Jones have had on his approach to the game.
So far the Mets rightfielder has enjoyed playing in New York and for the Mets. Speaking of Terry Collins and the coaching staff, Byrd compared him favorably to managerial luminaries he had played for previously, namely Lou Pinella, Larry Bowa, and Frank Robinson. In particular, he cited qualities such as, “high energy… putting guys in the right situations to succeed,” as well as giving bench players enough playing time and having the right pitchers and catchers working together.
Ironically, Marlon Byrd’s success has lead to speculation he could be dealt by the Mets at the July 31st trade deadline. Whether he is a Met on August 1 may be a question but as for his current team, Byrd said, “I’m blessed they gave me a chance.”
In a non-baseball matter, the Mets partnered with T.E.A.L (Tell Every Amazing Lady) in the second Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day at Citi Field this past Saturday. T.E.A.L raises money to benefit ovarian cancer research and awareness programs and the Mets donated a portion of Saturday’s ticket sales to T.E.A.L The organization will be sponsoring its 5th annual 2.5 mile walk and 5 k run at Prospect Park in Brooklyn on September 7 as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
The Mets enter play on Wednesday in fourth place with a record of 44-52. Eager to avoid the pitfalls which have befallen them after the All-Star break in recent years, the Mets have opened the second half of the season with three wins in five games, highlighted by seven dominant innings by Matt Harvey in Sunday’s 5-0 blanking of Philadelphia. After the conclusion of the current homestand on Thursday, the Mets hit the road for an eight game road trip before returning to Citi Field on August 2 against Kansas City. A highlight of the next homestand will be the arrival of Tuxedo native Walt Weiss as manager of the Colorado Rockies on August 6.