Mets righty Dominic Hamel representing late mother’s heritage in World Baseball Classic – Boston Herald
PORT ST. LUCIE — Spring training is the one time of year when the fans can get close to some of the biggest stars in the game.
Count Mets right-hander Dominic Hamel as one of those fans.
The 2022 organizational pitcher of the year started for Team Blue in the Mets’ intrasquad game Friday at Clover Field. When he saw who he would be facing, he had to make sure he held down his breakfast.
“It was a super surreal feeling,” Hamel said. “I still got a ways to go but just seeing those names in the lineup I’m facing and I having an opportunity to get those looks, I’m very grateful for being up here. I think I’ll be out here again next week get a couple more innings, but I’m glad I got that first one under the belt. I was definitely a little nervous but I’m feeling good.”
Hamel managed to keep the adrenaline and nerves under control, but when he walked Francisco Lindor and the shortstop talked to him from first base, he couldn’t help but get a little starstruck.
“I was like, ‘That’s insane,’” Hamel said.
Hamel will have plenty of time with Lindor this spring when he plays alongside him and Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico. The 23-year-old was raised in Arizona and played college baseball at Dallas Baptist University, but his maternal grandfather was born in Puerto Rico. Playing for Puerto Rico holds significant meaning to him beyond just his grandfather.
Only 11 days before the Mets selected him in the third round of the 2021 draft, Hamel’s mother passed away. Seeing an opportunity to represent his mother’s heritage, he approached St. Lucie Mets pitching coach Victor Ramos, who helped put him in touch with Team Puerto Rico.
“It’s definitely something I’ve always tuned into,” Hamel said. “I’ve got Italian, Mexican and Puerto Rican in me, and USA, obviously. I actually received a phone call from Team Italy not too long after I committed a play for Puerto Rico, so maybe next time.
“If I get another opportunity to play in a Classic I’ll take it, for sure, but for this one, it’s definitely special to represent Puerto Rico for that side of my family and my mom.”
Hamel is slated to start Puerto Rico’s fourth game in Pool D against the Dominican Republic on March 15 in Miami. It’s a big assignment for a young pitcher, but Mets manager Buck Showalter thinks it’s warranted.
“I see why everybody thinks so highly of him,” Showalter said. “I see why Puerto Rico wants him to pitch against the Dominican Republic. He’s got a good arm and our guys were impressed.”
He may be impressive now, but he didn’t feel as though he was impressing many at the start of last season. Still grieving the death of his mother, Hamel went 3-1 with a 4.71 ERA over his first 10 appearances with Class-A St. Lucie. But he finished the season strong, tossing 14 shutout innings over his final two starts with High-A Brooklyn and posting a 2.59 ERA in 11 High-A starts and a 3.25 ERA overall.
Hamel leaned on his family to help get him through his first year in professional baseball and luckily, the geography worked in his favor. His father and stepmother live nearby in Wellington, Florida, and he has family in Poughkeepsie that was able to visit him in Brooklyn.
In addition to his fastball and a 12-6 curveball, he’s developing a slider with some sweep and a changeup. He’s confident in his stuff and his ability to command it, even against an elite lineup.
“I think when I first saw those names in the lineup, yeah, I got a little anxious,” he said. “But like in retrospect, looking at it now, I should have been way more comfortable because my stuff plays.”
Hamel may find stardom himself if he continues to progress at this rate, but for now, he’s hoping to strike out some stars in Grapefruit League play and the WBC.
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