SYRACUSE — One of the great things about having a Triple-A minor league baseball team in Syracuse is the chance it gives fans to see superstars of the future as they make their way up to the big leagues.
This summer Syracuse Mets fans have been thrilled by the precocious catcher Francisco Álvarez, who was promoted here on the Fourth of July from the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
On Thursday, July 28, soon after making his Triple-A debut here in the International League, Álvarez blasted a walk-off home run deep over the left-field wall, propelling the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Omaha Storm Chasers. I attended that game, and that hit was a marvelous moonshot!
What was even more impressive was the way the rookie rose to the occasion, even under pressure. The game was tied in the bottom of the ninth there were two outs and a runner at third. The Omaha reliever, a tall Texas righthander named Colton Brewer, quickly got ahead in the count, 0 balls and two strikes.
Now with two strikes many batters would choke up a bit, adjust his swing to make contact rather than swing for the fences. But Álvarez had other ideas. When he saw Brewer deliver a hanging curveball, he walloped the horsehide and sent it high and far into the night sky.
That game-winning dinger was a thing of beauty.
Outta the park!
He did it again on Aug. 3 in Allentown’s Coca-Cola Park against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The Pennsylvania fans were left shaking their heads in wonder after Álvarez slammed the first pitch of the seventh inning out of the stadium, literally.
Over 23 games played, Álvarez’s batting average here lingers below the Mendoza Line, but he has slugged four doubles and five home runs and has 18 walks and 17 runs batted in.
The parent NY Mets whined about their inability to snag a catcher via trade before the Aug. 2 deadline, well, maybe the executives shouldn’t overlook this kid.
Sure, he’s just 20, but he seems ready now.
Red Sox next week
And there’s no doubt that his work behind the plate is also improving daily. Álvarez pretty much proved his defensive mettle by catching future Hall of Fame hurlers Max Scherzer (June 21 in Binghamton) and Jacob deGrom at NBT Bank Stadium (on July 14 and again on July 27).
If you enjoy baseball, do yourself a favor and make sure to take in a few Syracuse Mets games just to see Álvarez in action. The Junior Mets host the Worcester Red Sox at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 through Saturday, Aug. 27 and at 1:05 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28.
The season ends with a rare morning game at 11:05 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28 versus the Lehigh Valley IronPigs; milb.com/syracuse/; 315-474-7833.
A life with baseball
Speaking of the national pastime, my friend, former umpire Herm Card has written a memoir, “Looking Back…a life with baseball.” A longtime poet and teacher, Herm now shoots photographs for the Syracuse Mets and his images have often appeared here on the pages of Eagle Newspapers.
His 91-page collection of essays is dedicated to his grandmothers, his parents and his wife, aptly emphasizing the way the love of baseball is naturally passed on from generation to generation.
Herm’s 27 essays run the gamut from memories of a Yankees game in 1954, to recollections of playing the infield for Syracuse University to an appreciation of Challenger Baseball which invites disabled children to learn the game.
One of his best chapters is “A Baseball,” inspired by the time he spent last summer as color man for Syracuse Mets play-by-play broadcaster Michael Tricarico. Herm waxes poetic recalling all the colorful terms used to describe various baseball plays. Home runs earn varied descriptions including “dingered, downtowned, four-masted, jacked, short-porched, tape-measured and tattered.”
For more information on Herm’s book, email him at [email protected].
“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”