NY Mets: The moment when I became Jacob deGrom’s biggest fan
I look forward to the All-Star game every year, but the 2015 game was special for one reason and one reason only: Jacob deGrom making his All-Star Game debut. After his award-winning rookie season and his fantastic start in 2015, it was not surprising that he was selected. He was the only New York Mets player appearing in the All-Star Game, but his presence was all I needed to decide that the game would be a must-watch.
That Tuesday night, I had a rehearsal for the summer musical that I was in, but luckily I was not needed for the entire rehearsal. My dad picked me up early, and put the game on the car radio. Chris Archer was pitching the bottom of the 5th for the American League, and I was not yet sure whether deGrom had pitched already or if he had yet to enter the game.
Though it was a short ride home from rehearsal, I was antsy the entire time about wanting to see deGrom represent the Mets in his All-Star appearance.
When we got home, I raced through the front door, put my bag down, and immediately turned on the TV in our dining room. The game was in a commercial, and the top of the 6th inning was about to begin. Once the ad ended and the game came back on, I saw a familiar flash of long brown hair under a Mets baseball cap on the mound at Great American Ball Park.
deGrom stepped up to the pitching rubber, about to face the 7-8-9 hitters in the AL lineup, which was still a formidable bunch: Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis, and Alcides Escobar. I fidgeted in my chair, wondering how he would make his mark on the outcome of this game.
“You’ve got to see Jacob deGrom in person,” noted Harold Reynolds over the air as deGrom began the inning.
“Don’t worry, I already have,” I thought to myself, smiling at the memory of the fantastic deGrom start I had witnessed with my family earlier that season in April, when he had tossed seven scoreless innings, walked no one, and struck out eight against the Miami Marlins.
deGrom fired three sizzling fastballs in to Vogt, all for strikes. Vogt swung and missed at the last one, striking out to begin the inning.
I eagerly thought to myself, “There we go. Time to show the national stage what you’re made of, Jake!” I knew he was always poised and in attack mode on the mound, ever since his outstanding MLB debut the prior season against the New York Yankees, but this performance was something else.
Next up was Kipnis. The first pitch from deGrom was a 97 mph fastball at the knees for strike one. Second pitch, another airtight fastball for a called strike. His third pitch to Kipnis was just a bit high and away, though I thought it still could have been called a strike.
Then, he blew Kipnis away with yet another 97 mph fastball as Kipnis helplessly swung through it for strike three.
“How about back-to-back strikeouts!” said Joe Buck. “The best stuff we’ve seen all night, in my opinion.”
My excitement rose. Could deGrom keep up this tearing pace of unhittable fastballs for a third straight batter? As a Mets fan, I had learned to never set my expectations for anyone on the team too high. Striking out the side in the All-Star Game seemed like far too tall of an order to ask from anyone. I quickly learned that deGrom was not just anyone.
The third man up in the inning was José Iglesias, who pinch-hit for Escobar. He began his at-bat with a hearty swing-and-miss through a searing fastball that seemed to rise unnaturally through the zone as it crossed home plate. That kind of action on a fastball was, to put it mildly, otherworldly.
“I mean, it just has different action on it,” noted Buck.
Reynolds added, “It’s out of the Hummer, I mean just ZOOM!”
deGrom then followed with a breaking ball that completely fooled Iglesias, as he swung through it for strike two. On the 0-2 count, about to get out of the inning, he decided to show off another breaking ball that fooled Iglesias again as he struck out, flailing at the pitch down. One, two, three went the AL All-Star hitters. On only 10 pitches. I sat in awe, applauding from my house in disbelief as I processed the insane dominance I had just witnessed.
As deGrom calmly walked off the mound, Buck uttered what luckily became prophetic words, which I still have memorized:
“Hi, I’m Jacob deGrom, and I have the chance with my stuff to just dominate baseball for years to come.”
I decided right then that this All-Star inning from deGrom was the most dominant inning of baseball I had ever watched. To this day, I have never witnessed a Major League pitcher, on a national stage, absolutely destroy the opposition on 10 pitches the way deGrom did on that Tuesday night.
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Since 2015, I have gone back and watched this All-Star appearance on YouTube countless times. It is only one minute and 18 seconds long, and the entire inning is ingrained in my mind forever as the moment when deGrom as we know it, the modern-day “GOAT” in Queens, truly arrived. It’s also the moment when he became my favorite Mets player ever.