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Mets: Celebrating one year of Jeff McNeil the big league ballplayer

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 24: Jeff McNeil #68 of the New York Mets celebrates his first major league hit on his first major leage at bat as he heads to first base in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres on July 24, 2018 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 24: Jeff McNeil #68 of the New York Mets celebrates his first major league hit on his first major leage at bat as he heads to first base in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres on July 24, 2018 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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When Jeff McNeil was tearing apart minor league pitchers in 2018, many wanted to see him promoted to the New York Mets roster. One year ago, it happened.

July 24, 2018, is a special day in New York Mets history. It’s the day we saw Jeff McNeil make his big league debut. A pinch-hit single against Phil Hughes of the San Diego Padres got things started. Ever since, he has continued to climb into our consciousness and show off just how special of a player he is.

The game itself was a relatively forgettable one at Citi Field which took just over two and a half hours. The Tuesday night ended with a Mets win by the score of 6-3, pulling their record to 41-57.

In a lineup which included Jose Bautista batting cleanup and Phillip Evans as the starting third baseman, McNeil got his opportunity to play in the 8th inning with the Mets ahead 6-2. With two outs and Brandon Nimmo on first base, Mickey Callaway called upon McNeil to bat for Evans. A line-drive single to center field kept the inning alive. One batter later, Matt den Dekker struck out looking.

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McNeil’s big-league promotion came after he hit .342 at Double-A and Triple-A combined. He went on to hit .329 in his first 248 plate appearances with the Mets in those final weeks of the season. In 2019, we’ve seen an even better version of McNeil. He has confirmed the thoughts of believers. Anyone who doubted his abilities is now on board, too.

In less than a year, McNeil has developed as a ballplayer in a variety of ways. This is partly because the Mets have allowed him to do so.

A reason why he didn’t get promoted to the big leagues until late July was because the team apparently thought of him exclusively as a second baseman. Many saw through the lie told by manager Mickey Callaway. In 2019, he has played anywhere asked of him with left field as his primary place to play. Lately, he has handled right field plenty, too.

When McNeil was tearing up the minor leagues in 2018, I didn’t think he was going to put up similar numbers in MLB. How many men actually do?

We’re now a year into his big league career and McNeil is a contender for a batting title. Less than 162 games into his career and he’s in a class no other player in this franchise’s history has been. If he does manage to win a batting title this year or at any point in the future, he’ll be only the second Mets player to do so. Jose Reyes won his in 2011 with a .337 batting average.

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McNeil’s young career is one many Mets fans have enjoyed. In year one, he has shown us nothing but his best effort. Already beloved by all, it’s hard to believe he has worn the blue and orange uniform for a full 365 days.

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