The Mets signed Darrell Ceciliani in the 4th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft from Columbia Basin College in Pasco, WA. In his freshman year in college, prior to the draft, he hit .374 and helped lead the team to 44 wins and an appearance in the 2009 NWAAC Championship series.
He was sent to Kingsport and in 42 games, he batted .234/.313/.310 with 29 runs, six doubles, and two home runs in 158 at bats. I asked him what was his experience like playing in his first pro season compared to college, “Experience was great, I didn’t know what to expect. I kind of went in blind to how pro ball was, the everyday grind of it and and the work that you have to do on an everyday basis,” he continues, “in college I was playing twice a week, and you practice the other days, so it was tough to get used to. I think after my first year, I was able to adapt and know what to be ready for. It’s a huge jump and your playing against the best of the best, because in college you may face one guy from each team that has the stuff to play major league ball, and in pro ball your facing every college teams ace,” says Ceciliani.
In 2010, he was promoted to Brooklyn, and he put himself on the map as a prospect to watch. In 68 games, he finished the season batting .351/.410/.531, and flirted with batting .400 for the year. In June and July he batted a combined .393, but in the second half he slowed up a bit and he batted just .282 in August. A normal batting average for most prospects, but he was on fire and was playing more than just normal. “A lot of it was my approach, being able to use all parts of the field. In college and when I was younger, it was more pull the ball, try to hit it out of the ball park, but the type of player I am; top of the order, speed guy, using the whole field, is more my approach. I got together with Wally Backman and Benny Distefano that year and learned how to bunt, and I think I had like 12-14 bunt base hits, which also helped my batting average that year,” says the outfield prospect.
He ended his outstanding season by leading the NY-Penn League in many offensive categories. He was named to the league all star game and finished with the highest batting average in Brooklyn Cyclones history. He also set team records with 95 hits, 12 triples, and 56 runs scored. Darrell was honored with the New York Mets Organizations Sterling Award as the top player at his minor league level.
In 2011, he was moved to Savannah and in 109 games, he batted .259/.351/.361 with 62 runs scored, 23 doubles, four triples, four home runs, 40 RBI’s, and 25 stolen bases in 421 at bats. In 2012, he had a down year which was a result of multiple leg injuries that made it difficult for him to play a full season. “I pulled my hamstring on four different occasions; I’d come back each time, maybe too soon, and couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I ended up going to a specialist and they figured out that my hips were out of line. So we came up with a workout regimen to help keep my hips in line and keep my hamstring strong. I finished the season by playing the last 12 or 14 games and then I went to the AFL and felt great ever since. In the 23 games, he batted .329/.402/.459 with six doubles, one triple, and one home run in 85 at bats.
Fully healed from his leg ordeal, he was sent to the B-Mets for the 2013 season and in 113 games, he batted .268/.322/.380, with 61 runs, 17 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 44 RBI’s and 31 stolen bases in 418 at bats. He also enjoyed a 17-game hit streak in July where he batted .470 (31 for 66) in the stretch.
Another talented minor leaguer within the organization that has had an amazing pro career thus far, and at only 23 years old, its only the beginning.
Enjoy our conversation:
David – Is there something that you would like to share with the Mets fans that they do not already know about you? Your interests, hobbies outside of baseball?
Darrell – I love hunting and fishing, anything outdoors mainly in my offseason.
David – While playing baseball at Columbia Basin College, who can you say was a major influence in your baseball career?
Darrell – My dad has always been a major influence; he would tell me to set my mind to something and go out and try to do it and compete. I have always wanted to play professional baseball from the time I was little, and he always encouraged me to keep playing, especially that you never know how far it would take you, and to enjoy it while you can. At college, my head coach and the asst coach were huge influences in getting guys to come and see me and scout me; to try and get my name out there in the professional level.
David – Did you have a favorite player growing up and if so, did you model your game after him?
Darrell – My favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr. A lot of kids my age, he was their favorite player also. He did it all, played the game hard all the time, was a great defender, and was an exciting player and just fun to watch.
David – On the day that you were signed by the Mets in 2009, what was your reaction and who was the first person you shared the news with?
Darrell – It was a dream come true. I always hoped I would get the opportunity to play pro ball, and when I got the phone call from the Mets, I was excited and it was just a surreal feeling, something I always dreamed of doing. I was taking a final in college, and my dad and my coach actually called me, and told me the news, and I ended up finishing the final real quick and met up with both of them.
David – On August 17, the Dave Clark and Disability Dream and Do visited the B-Mets and held the first-ever baseball camp with the team, what was your experience with the campers and did it impact your life in anyway?
Darrell – It was just awesome working with the kids; you know they don’t have the opportunity to go out and do some of the things we get to do but they got to go out and play baseball and hang with us for the day. It was awesome just knowing we could help them in that sense. The way I looked at it is, it’s a blessing and a gift for us to go out and compete and play baseball for a living and just not to take it for granted.
David – What teammate has impressed you the most this season, and who should Mets fans be most excited about seeing in the future?
Darrell- It would be Noah Syndergaard; the way he keeps his head on his shoulders, where nothing seems to rattle him. He obviously has all the tools to be a great major leaguer. But the way his mental approach is towards pitching in the game, is pretty good for how young he is, and he will be really good.
David – Is there a Met manager or coach who has made an impact in your approach to the game and helped elevate your performance?
Darrell – Wally Backman and Benny Distefano, who I had as a hitting coach for three years, really helped in my approach; how to go about the game, and to handle your business the right way. Also Luis Natera was my hitting coach this year and that really helped me with just little technical things in my swing.
David – Do you feel like you are on track with the goals you set for yourself? If so, what are you expecting for 2014?
Darrel – I feel like I am on track; obviously the goal is to make it to the major leagues, move up a level each year and try not to stay stagnant in the same place. Also mainly to stay healthy and stay on the field; you can’t go anywhere if your on the shelf. I felt like 2013 was a big step towards that.
David – Moving forward, what stands between you and the big leagues? What do you specifically need to work on as a player, and improve upon, in order to be ready to compete on the big stage?
Darrell – Improve every part of my game; I need to cut down on my strike outs, walk a little bit more, be more selective at the plate, and just more consistency. I sometimes get out of rhythm, and I start getting a little too aggressive, instead of settling down and letting the game come to me.
David – How will you prepare over the winter; can you describe your workout regimen?
Darrell – With the workout regimen, I take some time off and after about a month, I’ll start working out 3-4 times a week, to stay in shape, through the holidays. I’ll hit a little bit after thanksgiving and start to hit it hard for about 2 months, where I’m also training in speed and agility, and with weights usually 4-5 days a week, just to be ready to go by February.
Thank you Darrell for sharing with me and the Mets fans your journey. Ceciliani is an exciting ball player that has a huge future ahead of him. An outfielder capable of hitting for average, stealing bases and playing good defensive is exactly what the Mets need. With the organization searching for corner outfielders to impact the roster in 2014, they may just have a diamond in the rough come 2015. Ceciliani should find himself in Las Vegas in 2014, which will be one step closer to his dream.
(Photo Credit- Gordon Donovan)