By Jim Dolan
For the first time since 1971, the New York Mets fielded an all-homegrown team to play the Miami Marlins in the last game of a three-game set at Citi Field on April 25. Among the farmhands taking the field in Flushing from past Cyclones teams were Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field, Jordany Valdespin in left field, Lucas Duda in right field, Ike Davis at first base and Daniel Murphy at second base. The rest of the lineup was rounded out with Jon Niese pitching, Josh Thole catching, Rueben Tejada at shortstop and David Wright at third base.
One of the bright spots for the Mets this season has been the emergence of rookie centerfielder Nieuwenhuis as the leadoff hitter. Capable of hitting the long ball and for average (.325), Nieuwenhuis has also contributed with his defense, making highlight catches in the outfield. Nieuwenhuis recently wrapped up the Mets’ home stand sweep against the Marlins with a walk-off RBI single to cap off a 3-for-5 day that included a triple.
Nieuwenhuis, a 2008 third-roun
d draft pick, was selected as a New York Penn League All-Star in his first year with the Brooklyn Cyclones and was chosen as the Mets’ Minor League Organizational Player of the Year in 2010. After a batting .285 in Triple-A Buffalo in 2011 before going down to a shoulder injury, Nieuwenhuis impressed the Mets’ brass in spring training before his call-up to replace Andres Torres (calf) after the first game of the season.
So far this season, “the better than most expected” Mets are 13-10, winning five of their last six games against Miami and Colorado. David Wright is beginning a banner year, hitting .389, while Rueben Tejada is beginning to make some fans forget that he was Jose Reyes’s backup at shortstop by hitting .299 and flashing the leather in the hole.
Like their 1971 homegrown predecessors — players like Bud Harrelson, Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones and Ed Kranepool — these 2012 Mets have the potential to make their own mark in club history. According to Mets Third Base Coach Tim Teufel, who has managed many of the these current young Mets in the minors, “These are a bunch of guys who have all played together and are now pulling for each other.”