SAN DIEGO -- Travis d'Arnaud grew up in Southern California idolizing the catchers on his favorite team, the Dodgers. At first, it was Mike Piazza. When Piazza left town, d'Arnaud shifted his focus to another talented catcher, Russell Martin.
"Watching those two guys catching, I tried to pretty much copycat them and do everything the way they did," d'Arnaud said Saturday before his chance to emulate them finally arrived.
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The Mets' highly touted prospect joined baseball's catching fraternity when he made his big-league debut in the Mets' 8-2 loss to the Padres.
"Indescribable, man,'' d'Arnaud said when asked about his emotions. "I kept my focus. I was trying to stick to the game plan.''
D'Arnaud, 24, went 0-for-2, but in his first big-league at-bat, he drew one of his two walks. He stranded a pair of runners when he grounded out to end the fifth and was charged with a passed ball in the sixth.
The Padres also swiped three bases with d'Arnaud behind the plate, though his pitchers shared some of the blame.
"You could see he was a little nervous,'' Terry Collins said. "I thought he was fine.''
The rookie's debut came only a short drive from his hometown of Los Angeles, allowing family and friends to be present for the occasion. Some family members had an even shorter journey. D'Arnaud's grandfather lives in San Diego and was expected to attend.
"It's a great feeling, like I said, for my family and I," d'Arnaud said before the game. "And I'm sure they're grateful for this opportunity."
During the last few weeks, d'Arnaud kept an eye on the situation that would determine his promotion: the birth of starting catcher John Buck's third child.
Buck left the team Friday to be with his wife, who gave birth to a baby boy Saturday. With that, d'Arnaud was promoted, then spent much of Saturday having conversations with members of the pitching staff. Bench coach Bob Geren said d'Arnaud also tended to other details, such as learning the signs and the lingo of the coaching staff.
The promotion was a long time coming.
Last season, while with the Blue Jays' organization, d'Arnaud was mere weeks from being promoted when he suffered an injury that cost him the rest of the year.
His luck soured again this year. D'Arnaud so impressed the Mets in spring training that general manager Sandy Alderson declared that he would be next in line to start in the event of an injury to Buck. D'Arnaud was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas so he could play every day. But in April, a foul ball fractured his left foot, sidelining him until last month.
It was yet another false start.
"I knew I had to make sure and keep my head up and try not to think about it that way," d'Arnaud said. "I'm here now and I want to make the most of it, soak it all in."
D'Arnaud began his rehab stint on July 24. He hit .286 with 13 doubles, three homers and 20 RBIs in 20 minor-league games, prompting the Mets to give him his first taste of the big leagues.
"I don't even notice it at all," d'Arnaud said of his foot injury.
Buck's paternity leave will last only three days. But as Alderson did the day before, Collins floated the possibility that d'Arnaud might remain with the team after Buck returns.
"We're certainly hoping he stays," Collins said. "Now, is that a plan going in? No. But you've just got to hope that he's ready to show us he belongs here.
"Now, the next three days, we'll get a feel for where he's at, what we've got to do and where we are with his development."