We visited Citi Field recently and met New York Mets star reliever Jerry Blevins.
Who is your best friend on the team?
Good question. I guess it was Addison Reed before he got traded. There’s something about guys in the bullpen — we’re around each other so much that we kind of bonded. I really enjoyed being around my fellow relief pitchers.
Does your uniform number have a special meaning?
It does. I used to wear number 13. I wore that pretty much my whole career and then when I re-signed with the Mets in 2016, they signed a man there, Asdrubal Cabrera. Asdrubal also likes to wear number 13 and he signed two days before I did. So I had to pick a new number, and 39 is my number, and it’s just a multiple of 13. It’s 13 times 3. Makes it easier for me.
How do you think this team will be this time of year?
I think we’re trying to win a World Series still. You know we had a little bit of a down year last year. A lot of injuries. But I think the goal is still to win a World Series and I think we can do it.
What players do you hate facing the most?
My job is to get their big lefty out. So I end up facing Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Christian Yellig, all the best [lefthanded] hitters on their team. I love it and hate it at the same time. It’s really hard, but I enjoy the challenge of facing their best hitter.
Do you have any lucky charms or superstitions before the games?
I don’t have any lucky charms. But I do have some — I don’t like to call them superstitions, because that makes me feel a little bit different. But it’s just like routine, the way I get dressed. If I’m going really well, I tend to wear the same stuff. I still wash it, but if I have a bad outing, I’ll put those socks away and I’ll wear a different pair of socks until, you know, the luck runs out of those. I think because we play 162 games back to back to back, you fall into routines. I do have to shower in the same exact shower every day. It’s weird. Whatever makes you feel comfortable.
How did you feel when you were traded to the Mets?
When I got traded, I was with the Washington Nationals. And right at the end of spring training, I got traded to the New York Mets. My wife and I were really excited because we love the city of New York. It was pretty hard the first month because we didn’t have time to find a place to live, so we lived in a hotel for the whole first month of 2015. But really excited. This is a wonderful organization to play for. My favorite city. I feel blessed to be able to be a New York Met.
Did you ever feel like quitting or giving up?
I’ve never felt like quitting or giving up. I was frustrated a lot at times. You know from Little League on, there’s times where you don’t feel like you’re playing great. Or there’s times where you’re doubting yourself. Even throughout a season, it’s a hard game. And baseball is different because there’s a lot of failure, especially for a hitter. If you’re a Hall of Fame hitter, you’re hitting .300. So hitting .300 is like the magical number. If you’re at the plate 10 times and you only get three hits, and you’re one of the best, those seven times you feel like you’ve failed, and so that’s hard for a lot of people to be able to learn from their failures. What I love about baseball is it’s frustrating and it’s not easy and there’s no way to master it. It’s a constant challenge. There are frustrating times but the key is to kind of lean on your friends and your teammates to pick you up.
Do you hate waiting?
Do I hate waiting in the bullpen? No, I love it. It’s different. We’re away from the manager who is in the dugout. That’s always like really serious, and everybody has to focus. So the first couple innings, I get to interact with fans, people come up and wave to me. And I get to relax for the first couple of innings. It’s a little more laid-back than in the dugout. I enjoy it.
Would you always want to be a baseball player and, if not, what else would you want to be?
I always wanted to be a baseball player. But my other dream was to be an astronaut. I don’t know, there’s something about just being in space and exploring that I always wanted to do. I’m glad that baseball worked out for me because I’m a little too tall to be stuck in a small compartment.
What other sports did you play while growing up?
I played football, baseball and basketball. I played all through high school, and then once I got to college I ended up playing just baseball.
What is your favorite thing about baseball?
I guess my favorite thing is the camaraderie of all my teammates, because we’re around each other for nine months straight. We’re closer. I spend more time with them than I do with my own family. So these guys become my family. Guys come from the Dominican Republic, Japan. You get to feel culture and enjoy each other.
Do you hope that the starting pitcher will mess up so you can play?
Absolutely not. Usually it’s hard to go nine innings. Even if they’re pitching great, the pitch count might get up there, so even if they don’t give up any hits, that seventh inning they’re over that 100-pitch mark. I’m probably going to get in anyway. But you never root for your teammates to do poorly. You always want your guys to do well. Like if you and I were competing for a spot, I wouldn’t want you to do poorly because it doesn’t mean I’m pitching great, either. If you’re pitching better, really good, and then it makes me better too.
When did you start playing baseball?
I started playing as long ago as I can remember, maybe 3 or 4 years old. And it was because my older brother already played, so it was a way for us to hang out.
Have you ever thought of sneaking around the stands in the Mr. Met outfit?
I haven’t, but we talk about it all the time. I feel like the head would be heavy.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career?
It was probably being sent back down to the minor leagues when you know they have an option. If they send you to Triple-A when you’re in the big leagues, it’s really hard to handle. It’s like an ego check. They tell you you’re not good enough to be there, and it’s hard to hear. I lean on my teammates and friends and family to remind me why I do this game. And why I want to play. And your goal is to be in the big leagues.
Karen Landsman’s sixth-grade class, Polk Street Elementary School, Franklin Square