BY JOE RINI
Halfway to the halfway point of the 2015 season, the Mets surprisingly sit in a tie for first place in the Eastern Division of the National League. As expected, starting pitching has been the team’s strength whether it’s come in the form of a healthy Matt Harvey, an ageless Bartolo Colon, or a young Noah Syndegaard. However, despite numerous injuries to key players like perennial All-Star David Wright and rising star Travis d’Arnaud, contributions from their replacements have kept the Mets playoff hopes alive. This past Saturday, The Rockland County Times chatted with two of these players, third baseman Eric Campbell and catcher Kevin Plawecki, prior to the Mets 14-1 trouncing of the Brewers.
While not a flashy player, the Mets are 13-6 in Campbell’s starts, and the Connecticut native has become a fan favorite for his solid fundamental play, whether it’s advancing a runner with a productive out or delivering a sacrifice fly. For this, Campbell credits his father and his high school coach. “They taught me to play the right way,” he said. “I grew up on the field” since his father was also a baseball coach.
Considering that eighth round draft picks like Campbell don’t often make the majors, and reflecting on his six years in the minors before reaching the Mets, he said, “You have to love the game…and grind it out.” In contrast to a first round pick who may get more chances to succeed, Campbell smiled and said, “You have to put your foot on the gas and not look behind you.”
When I asked Campbell how he was able to accept being sent back to Triple-A earlier this season, he said, “My job is to show up and play hard…to take pride in my performance and not to sulk.” As for handling the pressure of being a young player and having to
virtually prove himself with every at bat, Campbell said, “Baseball is a day by day game…tomorrow is a new day,” and added that sometimes you have to trick yourself into thinking it.
The 24-year old Plawecki debuted with the Mets on April 21, and looking back on his first month in the majors, he said, “It’s been fun, adapting to the majors,” and said he was also helped by having early success with the Mets, which included notching two hits in his first game and later homering at Yankee Stadium.
Another important source of help to Plawecki has been the man he replaced, Travis d’Arnaud, who has given him insights into handling the pitching staff. As a rookie handling veterans such as the Bartolo Colon, whose rookie season occurred when Plawecki was six-years old, the Indiana native said it was important to learn, “When to talk to a pitcher…when to slow the game down for them.”
The Mets enter play on Wednesday tied for first place with the Washington Nationals with a record of 23-17 after splitting the first two games against the Cardinals. Unlike Frank Sinatra, Chicago was not the Mets kind of town last week as the Cubs swept four games from the Amazins. However, the Mets recovered against Milwaukee last weekend when their dormant bats erupted like Vesuvius by scoring 10 runs in the fourth inning of a 14-1 victory on Saturday. On Sunday, Noah Syndergaard gave 32,422 fans a reason to save their ticket stubs when he earned his first career win with a 5-1 victory over the Brewers.
It should be noted that Rockland’s Lower Hudson Valley Youth Chorus, conducted by Jared Rosenblum, performed the National Anthem before Saturday’s game. Given the explosion of runs by the Mets that followed, perhaps the Chorus should be invited back – soon!