When looking at the successful teams around Major League Baseball, the one key element that stands out, is how good is their pitching staff. Pitching is key to any organization looking to not only be competitive during the season, but to be competitive every single year. And a successful organization doesn’t just have good pitchers on the major league club, they also have good pitchers within their minor league system. Quality pitching wins games, great pitching wins championships and when you have your farm system filled with good young arms, the future just continues to be filled with hope. That is the key to long lasting winning, having the right tools to compliment the big club.
The Mets, just recently, have shown to have some real good arms in their farm system. Just this season the fans were able to witness the promotion of Zack Wheeler and watched his development into a real good pitcher. And there are a few good men waiting for their opportunity on the farm to show that they also belong.
One of these soon to be stars is relief pitcher Randy Fontanez, who along with many other pitchers in the Mets minor league system, has a bright future ahead of him. Randy was signed by the Mets in the 27th round of the 2011 Amateur Draft out of the University of South Florida. USF is where Randy made his mark as a dominate pitcher. On March 26, 2010, he threw the third no-hitter in the University of South Florida’s baseball history against Notre Dame, and he recorded a career-high with 12 strikeouts and earned his first victory of the season.
After he was signed by the Mets, Randy was sent to Brooklyn where in 12 games, seven of which he started, he posted a 1-2 record, a 2.82 ERA, 26 strike outs in 38.1 innings of work. In 2012, he remained in extended spring training and was sent to St. Lucie where he pitched in one game and recorded 3 shutout innings. Randy was then sent back to extended spring training, until he was called up by Savannah. Randy pitched in 28 games with Savannah, started only one and was 3-4, a 4.90 ERA, with 57 strikeouts in 60.2 innings. In 2013, Randy was promoted to St. Lucie and in 45 games, all in relief, he was 9-7, a 3.41 ERA, 1 save, and 83 strike outs in 60.2 innings.
Prior to joining the St. Lucie Mets, Randy participated in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and played with The Puerto Rican National Team. In 4 games he had a 3.86 ERA and was part of a talented group of players mixed with some Major League stars that went all the way to the Classic Championship, and even though they lost to the Dominican Republic, the team battled and made it further than anyone thought they would.
Playing in the Classic gave Randy the experience he needed to be able to compete against major league hitting. Going back to the minors to continue his development, will only enhance his abilities, but the Mets have a gem at their finger tips and the hope is that they utilize him to the best of their ability. As a fan, I am excited about what I see in Randy and the opportunity he has before him to reach Citi Field and be of great use. The journey in the minors is not easy, but when you have been able to embrace the many challenges, the future begins to get even brighter.
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?
Randy - Outside of baseball I am a television series addict finishing complete series in one days time. Out of the 50 series that I have watched my favorite three would have to be Dexter, Entourage, and Breaking Bad.
David – Did you have a favorite player growing up and if so, did you model your game after him?
Randy - My favorite player growing up would have to be Omar Vizquel, the Indians shortstop in the 90′s. As a kid I always wanted to be a shortstop and make bare handed plays like he did. My defensive game was always modeled after him as I played shortstop my whole life until college where I became solely a pitcher.
David – You are tied with Notre Dame’s Tom Thorthon and Boston College’s Chris Lambert for the second-most career Pitcher of the Week awards in Big East history with five, how did it feel to achieve that accomplishment?
Randy - I feel quite honored that I am in such a great class of baseball players to receive that many Pitcher of the Week Awards and couldn’t have done it without the great supporting cast from my teammates, coaches, and family backing me.
David – Who was a most influential person for you while playing at the University of South Florida?
Randy - While at the University of South Florida the most influential person would have to be my pitching coach Lazaro Collazo. He was the toughest coach I have ever had pushing me beyond any other person has physically and mentally while maintaining a close relationship with me on and off the field.
David – On the day that you were drafted by the Mets in 2011; where were you when you received the news? Can you describe what was going through your mind and who was the first person you called?
Randy - On the day that I was drafted by the Mets I was at sea world with my family trying to not think about the draft so that I could have a fun peaceful day. In turn the whole day was basically me stressing out anyways. My dad took care of calling everyone I know as well as everyone he knows.
David – In 2011, you played your first pro baseball season with Brooklyn, what was the experience like and how can you compare it to playing in college?
Randy - My first season in Brooklyn was an experience I will never forget. The atmosphere was unlike anything I have ever played in before making it one of my most exciting baseball experiences ever.
David – Which part of your game do you think improved the most from 2012? What part do you feel you need to put more work into?
Randy - This year I feel I improved my game by being able to adjust to schedule that a bullpen pitcher has to endure throughout a long season. 2012 was my first year I have ever pitched in a bullpen role and struggled with getting loose in shorter amounts of time and being ready not only physically but mentally as well. Going into 2014 I need to improve on bouncing back from bad pitches I make this year when things got rough they tended to snowball and as a reliever you just have to be able to forget the last pitch and go back to getting the job done.
David – You played in the World Baseball Classic with Puerto Rico this past year, can you share what was your experience like?
Randy - The World Baseball Classic was the best thing to ever happen to me closely followed by the no-hitter I threw against Notre Dame. The experience I gained from those three weeks are something that I will forever remember and use in my future playing baseball. Along with the experience, it was an honor to represent my homeland of Puerto Rico along side some of the best big league ball players such as Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan and many others.
David – In 2013, you were used out of the bullpen, not since Savannah have you started any games, is there a preference to you starting verse coming out of the pen?
Randy - Starting and coming in relief are both roles that I like doing now. At first I was not the biggest fan of the bullpen because it was something I was not familiar with and I struggled in doing so. After I became more accustomed to the role, I feel that I am able to do either or and enjoy doing both.
David – You posted your first career save with St. Lucie, what was the feeling like to earn that milestone?
Randy - My first save in reality was something that was very satisfying purely for the fact that I did my job and helped the team win. With a closer like T.J. Chism saves was the furthest thing from my mind I would just want to do my job and get the ball to arguably the best closer in the Florida State league.
David – Looking back at the 2013 season, the team came so close to making the playoffs, what was it like in the clubhouse after the last game of 2013 ended?
Randy - After the last game the atmosphere is always bittersweet. We all want to win there is nothing better than winning a championship and doing it with a team that you know has worked so hard for so long to reach the ultimate goal of winning games and becoming a big league ball player so not finishing number one is quite disappointing. On the other hand being away from family and home for so long it is a nice feeling knowing that you will be able to return home and be with our loved ones that constantly send support throughout the long season.
David – What teammate has impressed you the most this season, and who should Mets fans be most excited about seeing in the future?
Randy - Dustin Lawley was the most impressive player that I was able to be a teammate of. The entire season he was the most dangerous hitter in the Florida State league, and also the most powerful hitter. Leading the league in home runs and nearly getting to 100 RBI’s in one minor league season.
David – Is there a Met manager or coach who has made an impact in your approach to the game and helped elevate your performance?
Randy - The Mets coach that has helped elevate my game the most would have to be my pitching coach from this past season, Phil Regan. He is one of the most knowledgeable baseball minds that I’ve ever been around. He has a resume longer than most coaches in the world. Throughout the season he was able to tweak small things and help me make adjustments to help improve my game for the long run.
David – You have had success in your career in the minors; do you feel like you are on track with the goals you set for yourself? If so, what are you expecting for 2014?
Randy - I feel that I’ve come a little bit short of my own expectations, but feel that I still have so much more ability that what I have shown. Through hard work and dedication I plan on reaching all my goals in the near future.
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?
Randy - In this upcoming year I need to improve on minimizing bad pitches, and being able to get out of jams whether it be my own or someone else’s.
David – When the off-season arrives, what do you look forward to doing the most? Family time, friends time, or just rest?
Randy - In the off-season I look forward to vacationing with family and friends, enjoying a short amount of rest, and then working hard preparing for the next season.
David – How will you prepare over the winter; can you describe your workout regimen?
Randy - Over the winter I plan to be training in the gym five times a week until December, where I then plan on participating in winter ball in Puerto Rico to continue to improve my game on the mound.
David – Anything you would like to share with the Mets fans?
Randy - Mets fans, 2014 will be a great year full of young new faces looking to help the New York Mets to be one of the best teams in the league, and I’m thankful to be a part of it and will be working so that I can see all of you in Flushing, New York.
Randy thank you for sharing a part of your story with myself and the Mets fans. With each interview that I conduct, I get to witness another players journey as if I am in the passenger seat right next to them. It also allows me to have a better appreciation for all the hard work they put in. There is no guarantee that any one of these players will make the big club, but to be able to understand what it takes to become a major league ball player, I can see that the reward is worth shooting for.
(Photo Credit - Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America and Brian Green)