It was five years ago tonight that Matt Harvey got the start for the National League as the All-Star Game was played at Citi Field.
The day before, then-prospect Noah Syndergaard represented the Mets and was the starting pitcher for Team USA during MLB's Futures Game. As expected, Syndergaard looked poised and aggressive on the mound, throwing one scoreless inning.
Brandon Nimmo, who started on the bench for Team USA, went hitless during two at-bats.
Later that night, a vibrant, 30-year-old David Wright stood at home plate taking part in MLB's Home Run Derby. He entered the day having already played 90 games that season, while hitting .304 with a .396 OBP, 13 HR, 44 RBI and 21 doubles, 24 hours before playing in his seventh All Star Game in eight years.
"It was awesome," Wright told reporters after the Derby. "It really, really was awesome. It's what I remember the playoff atmosphere being like in 2006. ... It was really, really special."
July, 2013: HR Derby at Citi Field (Credit: Matthew Cerrone)
In attendance, I recall literally feeling a jolt from the ovation Wright received from fans when he stepped in to the box. It was an incredible moment. However, for me, the best part of the night was hearing tens of thousands of Mets fans, cheering with a purpose at Citi Field.
The only time prior had been Johan Santana's no-hitter, which was also organic. It wasn't forced. It wasn't a call to action from the public address system. It was just lots and lots of Mets fans on a hot summer night, standing arm to arm, packed in to their favorite ballpark, rooting for their team's Captain and for everything he meant to the team. It was great.
Wright ended up hitting just five home runs and did not get out of the first round. However, then-A's outfielder Yoenis Céspedes hit 32 total home runs to win the event, despite not being selected to be on that year's American League All-Star team.
July, 2013: Andrew Vazzano takes a picture with his phone of David Wright during the HR Derby at Citi Field. Credit: Matthew Cerrone
It would be roughly two years later that Cespedes ended up being traded to the Mets, with whom he hit 19 home runs in 71 games in 2015 leading the Mets to their first World Series appearance in 15 years.
Meanwhile, Wright ended 2013 as arguably the best third baseman in baseball, despite hitting just four more home runs and missing 45 games with a hamstring injury during the second half of that season.
Sadly, 2013 was likely his last great season, which he ended with 5.6 WAR. He struggled through 134 games in 2014, ending his season early to have shoulder surgery. He returned in late 2015 and helped the Mets reach the World Series, but played in just 37 games the following season before it was announced he had been battling lumbar spinal stenosis. It was the last time he took the field for the Mets.
Wright is under contract through 2020, during which he'll earn $15 million next year and just $12 million in the final year of his deal. Wright recently ramped up his level of baseball activity and told reporters he is working hard to be able to play again later this season...
"When it's all said and done, I want me to be able to say I did everything I could," he explained in March, when asked why he is still fighting to play instead of retiring. "If it works, that's obviously the goal; and if it doesn't work, then I'll rest easy knowing that I gave it my best shot."
The day after the Derby belonged to Matt Harvey, who was the starting pitcher for the National League.
It's easy when thinking of Harvey to think of a fallen star, someone with big dreams, but bigger injuries. However, go back in time five years and Harvey was the most exciting, promising young pitcher in baseball, captivating the entire league, not just New York City...
"Matt Harvey has that ability, most everyone I talked with told me," I wrote moments before his All Star Game appearance. "They say Harvey can change the Mets, not just on field, but off the field."
July, 2013: On field before All Star Game at Citi Field. Credit: Matthew Cerrone
If you recall, those days, Harvey had no fear. He carried himself with an ego and swagger and a glare in his eye. He was serious about success and winning and never backing down, all of which fans and media, myself included, felt would inspire the Mets to change their identity and style of play.
"The question is, 'How will he handle it all in New York?'" former Mets manager Davey Johnson asked me, rhetorically, when wondering about Harvey's popularity and charisma compared to Gooden's fame and downfall roughly 30 years earlier. "It looks like he may have his head on right. If he keeps it even keel, I think he can be alright."
In the hours prior to the All-Star Game, Citi Field was humming like I'd never seen during a professional sporting event -- and most of the attention surrounded Harvey.
July, 2013: Matt Harvey enters dugout before All Star Game at Citi Field. Credit: Matthew Cerrone
The World Series in 2015 didn't come close to the level media and frenzy that had been playing out on field five years ago today. Unlike the World Series, which has local media from two cities and a ton of national media, the All Star Game has the same level national media, plus local media from all 30 teams.
Put it this way... whereas I could easily walk around the infield -- dugout to dugout -- before games during the 2015 postseason, there was literally gridlock during the All-Star Game.
"It's is a huge honor," Harvey said before throwing the game's first pitch. "It's obviously very special that it's here in New York and my first All-Star game. I don't think it could be any more perfect."
I was able to shimmy my way down from the Shea Bridge to the spot just over the home team bullpen where Harvey was warming up during the team introductions. I hoped to get the perfect photo from above of him emerging to take the mound, but he jogged out early to throw pitches from center field in time for his name to be announced.
Nationals OF Bryce Harper hit ninth and, despite playing for the National League, was heavily booed by New York fans scattered around the ballpark. Those boos instantly turned to roaring cheers when the monitors switched to showing Harvey on the outfield grass, casually throwing to his catcher. I assume the announcer said, 'Pitching for the National League, Matt Harvey,' but there was no way of hearing him. The crowd was that loud and pumped up to see their golden boy represent us and the Mets standing center stage in front of all of baseball...
In the end, Harvey pitched two innings, faced eight batters and did not allow a run. His three strikeouts were the most for a Mets starting pitcher in an All-Star Game since Sid Fernandez in 1986.
Harvey was quoted in Men's Journal a few days later as saying he hoped to one day sign a $200 million contract, while owning the best apartment in New York City, appearing on everyone's best dressed list, and quietly dating famous women.
July, 2013: Matt Harvey signs autographs before All Star Game at Citi Field. Credit: Matthew Cerrone
The day the Men's Journal article was published, I wrote: "Harvey needs to know that the minute he stumbles, the week he has back-to-back bad starts, everyone is going to point to the models, the late nights, the vodka and waters, the photo shoots and the life he is talking about in these interviews. ... There's a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning, and I hope Harvey walks it well."
In less than two months, Harvey would have his season shut down after being diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He chose to have Tommy John surgery in October, missed all of 2014. In 2015, after months of debating how many innings he should be allowed to throw, Harvey went above and beyond expectations and returned to pitching heroically as the Mets won the NL East and advanced to the World Series.
However, his 2016 again ended early when it was announced he needed to have a rib removed in an effort to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, during which he could not feel his fingers and questioned whether he'd ever again throw a baseball.
He struggled during most of 2017 and early 2018, leading to him being designated for assignment by the Mets just five months before finally becoming a free agent.
Apr 25, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Mets manager Terry Collins (10) shakes hands with starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) after defeating the New York Yankees in an interleague game at Yankee Stadium. The Mets defeated the Yankees 8 - 2. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports ( Adam Hunger)
"I really like Matt," Alderson said, after announcing Harvey's fate. "He's a human being. And as I said before, he's a vulnerable human being. .. and I'm gonna miss him, in many ways."
Harvey was eventually traded to the Reds for C Devin Mesoraco.
"I love Harvey, I love him like a son, Harvey's former Mets manager, Terry Collins, told The Hartford Courant earlier this summer. "We went through a lot of wars. I saw a guy, when he got to the big leagues, within two seasons he made himself one of the top three pitchers in all of baseball. So, what happened the last few years, injury-wise and how it affected him, was really tough to see and go through for him."
"I told him last year, 'Matt, your only problem is you set the bar so high, you expect so much of yourself that anything besides that is not going to be good enough in your eyes,'" Collins continued. "I just hope he bounces back. … I wish him the best."
I also wish him the best. And I'm thankful I got to experience the buzz he created five years ago tonight.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!