The Mets signed Luis Cessa as an international free agent in June, 2008, but they ended up with more than they figured they would get. Prior to signing on the dotted line, he gave himself a few options to make it in professional baseball. “Before I signed to play pro ball, I was a pitcher and an infielder but the priority at that moment to sign was as an infielder,” says Cessa.
Not knowing what his future would hold, the decision to play multiple positions would become a major factor in his journey. “In 2009, I had an injury to my left shoulder in the Dominican Summer League, and I had to take a break. In 2010, I had the same injury, in the same league and the team decided that I would have surgery on August 10, 2010. So after that, the coaches and Rafael Perez (Who was the Director of International Player Development for the Mets) made the decision to change me to a pitcher,” shares the right hander.
From 2009-2010, he played 57 games as an infielder in the Dominican Summer League while battling through injuries. He batted .176, with 1 home run, and 12 runs batted in. So the decision to shut it down, undergo the surgery and then change positions, was the best thing to happen in his young career. Not to say that he wouldn’t have been a better hitter when healthy, but a change of scenery, so to speak, helped to give him a better opportunity to follow his dreams.
In 2011, he played his first season in pro ball as a pitcher and he shared with me how he came away with a great lesson, “I felt good, and even though I had some bad days, I learned from the experience.” Combined between the DSL and the Gulf Coast Mets he appeared in 15 games, 6 of which he started and was 0-1, with a 3.19 ERA, 1 save, with 46 strikeouts in 53.2 innings.
In 2012, he was promoted to Brooklyn and that is where he started to hit his stride. It was his second season in pro baseball and he felt that Brooklyn was a great place for him, “I thank God for playing in Brooklyn, it was where I worked on my breaking pitch and my command, ” says the converted pitcher. He started all 13 games he appeared in, was 5-4, with a 2.49 ERA, 44 strike outs in 72.1 innings. This past season, he was sent to Savannah and in 21 starts, he was 8-4, a 3.12 ERA, with 1 CG, 124 strikeouts in 130 innings. Clearly the decision to change him into a pitcher was pure genius. In just three seasons of pitching in pro ball, he has been put on the map as a top pitching prospect.
He was also involved in the great run through the season that Savannah experienced which took them from Division Champs straight to League Champions. I asked him what it meant to win it all, “It was an amazing moment, but I don’t have words to describe, it was just the best moment of my career; it is my first championship,” says the top pitching prospect.
Even though Cessa speaks mostly Spanish, he did a great job responding to my questions in English.
Enjoy his interview:
David – Is there something that you would like to share with the Mets fans that they do not already know about you? Your interests or hobbies outside of baseball?
Luis – I am actually part Italian. Even though my parents are from Mexico, my grandfathers are Italian. I also love soccer.
David – Did you have a favorite player growing up and if so, did you model your game after him?
David – While growing up in Cordoba Vera Cruz, Mexico, who influenced you to play the game of baseball?
Luis – My dad had more influence in my decision. I started playing for him.
David – Since the conversion from an infielder to a pitcher, you have been successful; do you feel like you are comfortable now on the mound?
Luis – Yes, I am 100% comfortable. I have the control of the game and it’s a good thing.
David – How did your parents feel with you leaving home to play professional baseball?
Luis – My parents felt really happy and also really sad. I left at 16 years old and it was a difficult moment for all of us.
David – Was it an easy transition for you to be able to adapt to living in the United States compared to living in Mexico? Was it a culture shock?
Luis – It was difficult; maybe the first two weeks were hard, but after that I adapted. The biggest shock was the food because I love Mexican food.
David – Do you feel comfortable speaking in English, and has it been easy to learn?
Luis – I understand a lot but the problem is speaking it. All of us Latin players take an English class and practice with the American ball players and fans at the stadium.
David – In the 2013 championship finals Game 1, you started but ended up with the loss, what can you share about the experience of pitching in the playoffs?
Luis – I had the opportunity to pitch that first game and my adrenalin was high; I tried to win, I feel everybody tries in this situation, but I know it’s part of the game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but I’m pretty sure I gave my best.
David – What teammate has impressed you the most this season, and who should Mets fans be most excited about seeing in the future?
David – Is there anything in your approach to the game that you feel you need to improve on?
Luis – I’ve spoken with Frank Viola, my pitching coach from last season, and he told me that I needed to control my emotions and work hard for the coming season and don’t forget to practice my breaking pitch and my command.
David – Is there a Met manager or coach who has made an impact in your approach to the game and helped elevate your performance?
Luis – Frank Viola is a great coach, he help me a lot of times with a lot of different things, all season long.
David – Do you feel like you are on track with the goals you set for yourself? If so, what are you expecting for 2014?
Luis – My hope is to play in Port St. Lucie in 2014.
David – How will you prepare over the winter; can you describe your workout regimen?
Luis – I go to the gym to work on my body, work my muscles, to be strong and also mentally strong. I then go to the field to run and throw.
David – Anything you would like to tell the Mets fans?
Luis – Thanks for the support in the South Atlantic League. This year we were champions and I hope that the next year, in the next level we will be champions again. I am sure the team will work hard for that.
Thank You Luis for allowing me to share your story with our great readers. The Mets scouting has truly done their job by picking up players that are on the right track to becoming impact players. And when a decision was made to convert Cessa to a pitcher, it not only showed the knowledge of the organization to know what was best, it changed a young man’s life. I am looking forward to watching him continue to pitch and develop into a star.
(Photo Credit – MetsMerizedOnline.com and Savannahnow.com)