Each week during the off-season, I selected a random, former Met to highlight. With games starting back up tomorrow at 12 on SNY, this will be the last Rising Apple Off-Season Player of the Week.
It’s finally here, and I’m so excited to say that this will be the last off-season player of the week post until next winter! With Grapefruit League games set to start for the Mets tomorrow against the Washington Nationals, we will start the weekly voting for a standout peformer next week. So, keep your eyes peeled so you can put in your vote. To finish off this series with a flourish, I randomly chose former Mets outfielder Benny Agbayani as today’s players of the week.
Although Agbayani’s MLB career only lasted five seasons, he certainly made the most of his time. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii (and donned the #50 for his home state, as does Shane Victorino), and was originally drafted by the California Angels, but couldn’t come to an agreement and didn’t sign. The Mets then selected him in the 30th round of the 1993 amateur player draft out of Hawaii Pacific University. It took him six seaons in the minor leagues before he made his MLB debut with the Mets in 1998, hitting .133/.188/.133 in 11 games played.
After his debut season, the outfielder played three full years for Bobby Valentine in Flushing, being an important piece of two playoff teams in 1999 and 2000, logging over 100 games played in each season. His best overall season came in 2000 as he helped the Mets get all the way to the World Series, hitting .289/.391/.477 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 350 at-bats. It was during this season when he truly endeared himself to the Shea Faithful with some clutch hitting.
During the Opening Series in Tokyo against the Chicago Cubs, he hit the go-ahead Grand Slam in the 11th inning to give New York the win, and the blast remains the only grand slam hit in a MLB regular season game in Japan. Then, in the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants that October, Agbayani hit the game-winning homer to win Game 3, while also driving in the winning run in Game 3 of the World Series against the Yankees. He made an appearance on the Howard Stern show in 2000, and said the Amazins would take the series from the Bronx Bombers in five games; he was right about the number of games, but unfortunately, it was Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera hoisting the trophy in Flushing.
His time with the Mets ended on January 21st, 2002, as he was dealt to the Colorado Rockies as part of a three-team trade which also included the Mets and Milwaukee Brewers. Yup, that was the trade that brought Jeremy Burnitz to Shea. Agbayani struggled in the thin air of Denver, and the Boston Red Sox picked him off waivers in August of that season. That would be the last he would see playing time in the Major Leagues, putting together a career line of .274/.362/.445 with 39 homers and 156 RBI.
Despite not being able to catch on in America, Agbayani did enjoy success with Chiba Lotte in Japan. In 2005, he helped the Marines win their first title in 31 years, and he was named the MVP of the inaugural Asia Series that next month. Talk about things going full circle…his manager was former Mets skipper, Bobby Valentine.
So, here’s to you, Mr. Agbayani. Thanks for being an important piece of the Mets’ World Series run in ’00. You gave me plenty to cheer about during my summer before entering the 8th grade, even though I was eventually disappointed. I’m sorry you didn’t experience great success in the Majors after your time with New York was over, but I’m happy you earned some recognition in the Far East.