High-fives to Lastings!
Six years ago, Jenrry Mejia did not own a glove. He did not have a bat. He had no use for a ball.
The tools of his trade were a brush, a piece of cloth and a container of shoe polish. That was all Mejia needed when he left his house in Santo Domingo each morning and walked 30 minutes to the downtown cafe where he made his living.
On an island where baseball is like a religion, Mejia preferred shining shoes for 300 pesos a day, the equivalent of about $8.
"I didn't like baseball," Mejia said. "I just wanted to make money."
Only after Mejia turned 15 did he begin playing baseball, a decision fueled not by some newfound love of the game but by the same ruthless pragmatism that caused him to eschew it in the first place.
When Pedro Martinez signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the Mets in late 2004, Mejia realized what so many other teenagers in the Dominican Republic already knew: For the talented and lucky few, baseball is a way out.
Now, at age 20, Mejia is the Mets' top-rated pitching prospect and one of the most talked about players of this spring training. His cut fastball has baffled hitters and prompted manager Jerry Manuel to campaign for Mejia to be on the Opening Day roster. He has drawn comparisons to Dwight Gooden and Mariano Rivera.