Meet The Mets Newest Infielder, T.J. Rivera • Latino Sports

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Meet The Mets Newest Infielder, T.J. Rivera

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Have you grown tired of hearing the same old line attached to your name, T.J. Rivera, an undrafted player?

I’ve heard it pretty much throughout my career from when I first got signed. I knew it was going to be something different considering I wasn’t drafted in the higher rounds. Not having money invested in you kinda makes it a little difficult but I’ve heard it. I put it to the side and just show my ability to play.

As I listened to your press conference inside the Mets’ clubhouse, you stressed your family (your parents who are from Aibonito and Ponce). Describe how important your family is and it seems they are the reason for your success?

Truthfully, growing up, I’ve always played for them. When I began to play pro ball and later in my career, I played for them and my wife as well. They always pushed me to be a better person. They always gave me everything I asked for even if they didn’t have it. I believe that’s the reason going forward everyday.

As I read your bio, in my opinion, there are three individuals, excluding your Dad, who were instrumental in your baseball career. Your high school coach at Lehman H.S., former Mets’ backup catcher and now coach, Mackey Sasser (Mets’ catcher 1988-1992) and Wally Backman. Would I be correct in saying this? 

There are a lot who have influenced me. My little league coach, Yaco Torres (deceased) who was always keeping my head straight and making sure I was doing the right thing. He was a great influence and lived in my building.

I played in the Throggs Neck Little League. I hope to make it back someday. It’s been so long. Also, I had a great coach, Ian Millman (New York Nine) who was with me and helped get me to Alabama.

Coach Droz, my high school coach who instilled stuff in me early on and was always a good influence. I had Mackey (Sasser) as a coach. It was interesting because it was a different culture. He always put in a good word for me and always said I was going to play professional ball.

Once you got word that you were called up, you took a red-eye flight and once you entered the Mets’ clubhouse for the first time and walked over to your locker, share what that moment was like?

This place is big. Someone walked in with me and pointed to my locker. It was awesome to see how nice it is in here. It still doesn’t seem real. I’ve dreamed of this day all of my life.

It doesn’t come as a surprise because you’ve seen it – almost. Is this really happening to me? Even though you’ve pictured this all of your life and you’ve worked so hard for this, it’s still an amazing feeling.

Wednesday night, your very first Major League Baseball at-bat began at 8:01pm. You’re at the plate and took a pretty strong swing at the first pitch, what were you looking for?

It was funny I was saying to myself, “Am I going to attack the first pitch?” and I told myself it depends on the situation. I saw a fastball and I said I’m going to jump at this (laughter) because as much as you don’t seek hits, you’re trying to get the first one out the way.

You wanna hit the ball hard and have a good at-bat. I hit the ball and it went up the middle and ricocheted off pitcher’s leg towards third base. I was like…no.

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About Danny Torres

Bronx native, Danny Torres is a high school teacher, an avid baseball fan and freelance sports journalist. Besides his work with Latinosports.com, he has written for MLB.com, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y, the N.Y. Mets, the Puerto Rico Daily Sun and Manhattan Times. He was a frequent guest on 'Solamente Pelota', a now-defunct sports program on XM/Sirius satellite radio. In 2010, he contributed to an updated prologue for the re-released book, 'Clemente, the Enduring Legacy' by Kal Wagenheim. In 2011, as part of a series commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month on MLB.com, he contributed to a five-part series saluting the greatest Latino pitchers in baseball. Finally, in December, 2011, he participated in a panel discussion connected with the Smithsonian exhibition, 'Beyond Baseball, The Life of Roberto Clemente' in Baltimore, Maryland. In December, 2012, he appeared on the front page of 'El Diario/La Prensa', a NY Spanish daily newspaper and was featured in a five-part series dedicated to the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player, Roberto Clemente who tragically died 40 years ago.

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