Depending on traffic, it can take anywhere from 25 minutes to two hours to get from Keyspan Park in Coney Island to Shea Stadium in Queens.
But for Cyclones hurler Joe Smith, it took eight months.
The funny thing is, he couldn’t be happier.
After all, who goes from short-season A ball to the majors in such a short time? Certainly none of the 11 previous Cyclones who’ve made their way up the ladder to the Show.
In the Mets’ 6–1, Opening Night win in St. Louis Sunday, New York led 5–1 when Mets’ reliever Pedro Feliciano gave up a single to Aaron Miles to start the Cardinals’ eighth.
Mets’ manager Willie Randolph summoned Smith. He allowed a single to David Eckstein, struck out Preston Wilson and then walked Albert Pujols to load the bases.
Randolph then pulled Smith in favor of Aaron Heilman, who induced Scott Rolen to hit into an inning-ending double-play.
And as we go to press, Joe Smith’s ERA is an astounding 0.00, best of any former Cyclone on the squad.
On top of that, Smith got his feet wet in front of 45,000 fans and a national television audience.
But to him, it was just like his first time in front of a sellout crowd at Keyspan.
“I was nervous,” he said Wednesday in a telephone press conference, about beginning his career with the Cyclones. “I had to pitch before 8,000 fans, and they were New York fans, who are different. When you’re good they love you, and when you’re bad they let you hear about it.”
Smith didn’t let his nerves get the better of him though, as he allowed two runs, one earned, in his Cyclone debut. He then made sixteen more relief appearances without allowing an earned run. When he was called up to Double-A Binghamton on August 1, his Brooklyn ERA was a minuscule 0.45 for 17 appearances with nine saves.
Upon reaching Binghamton, a jump of three steps up the Mets’ farm ladder, Smith struggled and had an ERA of 5.48 in 10 relief appearances.
But Smith had struggled before. He was cut from the Wright State as a freshman. Not deterred, he switched his pitching motion from overhand to sidearm, made the team as a sophomore and became an outstanding reliever, pitching in 80 games over three years with 22 saves and a 1.53 ERA.
After watching him pitch with the Cyclones for half a short season, Brooklyn Paper reporter (and future scout?) Nick Pauly determined Smith was “the real deal,” giving him a team-high A+ on his midseason report card.
Smith could become a major factor in the Mets’ pennant chances this season as the Mets’ bullpen — the key to the big club’s success this year — is short on right-handers.
Smith tried to explain what it’s like to reach the goal of every Cyclone.
“There aren’t words to describe what it felt like to pitch in the majors!” said the Ohio native. “I only hope other Brooklyn players will get to experience something that you’ve wanted your entire life.”