Garden City alum Matt Daley gets opportunity in Yankees' bullpen
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Standing near his locker inside the Yankees' clubhouse the morning after he debuted for his hometown team, Matt Daley suddenly looked very serious.
It had nothing to do with his preparation for Saturday afternoon's game against the Boston Red Sox or the scoreless inning he pitched Friday night.
The 31-year-old righthanded reliever was asked about the loss he suffered against Wantagh in 2000 while pitching for Garden City. "Yeah, I try to block that one out," Daley said. "That was my one loss my entire [high school] career. I don't remember much from that one."
Daley went 16-1 in his varsity career as a Trojan, highlighted by a state Class B championship in 2000, his senior year.
"Honestly, it's one of my best memories of baseball in my entire life," Daley said of the title game. "I think we won 8-0 or something like that, but it was a close game for the first five innings. There was about 10 seniors on the team, so it was awesome and it was just really, really cool."
Rivaling that memory for the top spot in Daley's baseball memory book is his first outing with the Yankees.
"I was very happy with it. It was a complete whirlwind because I got the call that I'd be playing here at 4 [p.m.], was in a car at 5 from Hoboken and because of rush-hour traffic, I got to the park at 6:15," Daley said.
Daley, who now lives in Hoboken, N.J., lived in Queens until he was 11 and then moved to Garden City, where his parents still live and where he resided until he graduated from Bucknell.
For Daley, a chance to pitch for any major-league team, let alone the Yankees, was something many often thought -- and some even told him -- would never happen.
"People ask me all the time if I saw this coming back then, and the answer is absolutely not," said Rich Smith, who has coached at Garden City for more than 40 years. "But he persevered and now he's sitting on his dream."
It was no easy road, though.
"I was a late bloomer," Daley said. "I was 5-1 in high school and I didn't really grow until my junior year, so I was always pushing against the current and people telling me I couldn't do it."
Daley was not heavily recruited out of high school, according to Smith, and he walked on at Bucknell. He went undrafted out of college before signing with the Colorado organization in 2004. Daley made it to the majors in 2009 with the Rockies. He made 92 appearances with them and had a 4.71 ERA from 2009-11 before a shoulder injury ended his 2011 season.
The Yankees signed Daley to a minor-league deal in December 2011 as he rehabbed from surgery on his right labrum. After missing all of 2012 while rehabbing, he began the 2013 season with Class A Tampa, was promoted to Double-A Trenton and joined Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre on June 5. He was 2-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 30 appearances for the RailRiders. And now, with the Yankees' bullpen in a state of flux, Daley has been given an opportunity.
Rookie catcher J.R. Murphy says Daley is one of the most consistent guys he has ever caught. Smith said his composure can be traced back to his teenage years. Consistency and composure are the two things Daley said will be essential as he tries to make a good impression on the Yankees.
"I try to be composed and I think I can help this team," he said. "My forte is coming in and consistently getting righties out, and I know that they might need that right now. I'm pretty excited for this opportunity."