It was only fitting that on Wednesday's one-year anniversary of his Major League debut, Jeff McNeil faced off against the same squad who had welcomed him to the pros - the San Diego Padres.
Except this time around, instead of lining a first pitch single up the middle as he had in his first Major League at-bat, McNeil roped a double to right field. The difference between his first career hit and his leadoff double a year later, though, is clear.
Now, the hits are expected.
Such is the life when you're the owner of an MLB-best .342 batting average.
"He's been hitting the ball ever since he came up here," manager Mickey Callaway said on Wednesday afternoon.
The skipper is certainly right, but McNeil hasn't just been the Mets' best hitter. He's been among baseball's best. Only Christian Yelich owns a better batting average (.345) since McNeil's call-up. The group of players who have had more hits than McNeil in that span - Yelich, Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman - is comprised of MVP-level talent.
"About a year and a half ago I was in Double-A, so it's good to be here now, playing well," McNeil said after Wednesday's 7-2 loss. "It's exciting and I want to keep it going throughout my career."
In an effort to appreciate McNeil's brilliance, consider this. Coming into Wednesday's game against the Padres, he had reached base safely in 116 of his 132 career starts (88 percent of starts). Through his first 150 games, McNeil's production is virtually unmatched in Mets' history: He's first in hits (189), batting average (.337), OBP (.394), OPS (.888) and multi-hit games (58).
It's been a remarkable stretch for McNeil, the 27-year-old who has announced to the sport that he is indeed here to stay.
"It's gone by quick, real quick," McNeil remarked when thinking back to his debut. "You gotta enjoy it while you can, you never know how long you're gonna play this game. So, just enjoy it."
With an All-Star appearance to his name and a batting title perhaps in his future, McNeil's ascension has been a fascinating one. After all, it wasn't long ago when questions lingered. Callaway thought that pitchers would adjust, perhaps shifting or pitching to different spots -anything that could potentially expose a weakness. So far, opponents haven't figured it out.
"They've tried everything, and none of its working," Callaway said with a smile. "This is just something that happens because the kid is a gamer. He never takes a pitch off, and he's got the will power to go do it."
Callaway recalled a moment during McNeil's first few games last season, when he thought to himself, "Man, this guy really is unbelievable at the plate." Then, he mentioned his star's name among a trio of the sport's most prolific contact hitters - Pete Rose, Wade Boggs and Ichiro Suzuki. It was the highest form of praise for McNeil, who spent the last five years in the minors.
"You gotta believe in yourself," McNeil said. "I know I'm capable of doing exactly what I'm doing. I knew I was capable of that last year."
While he may have gone 'only' 1-for-3 with a walk and double in Wednesday's loss, it didn't stop him from tallying another impressive statistic - he's got a hit out of the leadoff spot in five of the Mets' last nine outings.
After 150 career games, McNeil's name and skill have grown nationally. But, he's stayed true to himself, humble as always and determined to win games.
"It's all kind of behind me now," said McNeil. "I just focus on the here and the now."