When Cam Maron got his call-up to Citi Field last month, it wasn't to be a fill-in behind the plate for Josh Thole. That day may come eventually, but for now, Maron was happy to settle for the next best thing: the honor of receiving a Sterling Award as the Mets' top player at the Rookie League affiliate in Kingsport, Tenn.
Maron, a Hicksville High graduate and Newsday first-team All-Long Island catcher, was among 10 organizational MVPs honored on Sept. 14, a group that also included 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey. But only Maron is a truly homegrown prospect, one that spent his childhood going to games at Shea Stadium and idolizing Mike Piazza, so that took the experience to another level.
"There were a lot of emotions running at a function like that, an awards ceremony of that magnitude," Maron said by phone from Fort Myers, Fla., where he is playing in the instructional league. "I think growing up watching the Mets really kind of added more to it.
"I didn't come to Citi Field as a kid obviously -- it was to Shea. But coming to Queens and being in that area again, it was kind of like, now I'm there. I'm starting to get there. I'm not that fan anymore, that kid. It was just an honor to be named in that class, among those guys."
Maron has a few more rungs of the organization ladder to climb before getting a shot to play at Citi Field, but the Sterling winners dressed in the clubhouse with the rest of the team and took part in some on-field drills before the awards ceremony. In addition to the trophies, they also received plenty of good-natured harassment during the pregame stretch, which served as a comical "welcome" to the majors.
"You definitely feel there's a camaraderie there," said Maron, who was picked in the 34th round of the 2009 draft. "Obviously I've got a lot of work to do before I get to the big leagues, but it's definitely a step in that direction. Being there around the big leaguers, and seeing how they work before the game, and being in the clubhouse, kind of gives you that little cup of coffee so to speak. You feel like you get closer to that."
Maron played 32 games combined in his first two seasons for the Gulf Coast League Mets, a lower-level Rookie League affiliate, but opened some eyes this season once he was elevated to Kingsport. Maron, 20, finished second in the Appalachian League with a .434 on-base percentage and tied for the team lead with a .318 batting average in 58 games. Maron had three home runs and 24 RBIs before earning a late-season promotion to Class A Savannah.
"This was kind of an, OK, I belong here sort of year," he said. "To start to make a name for myself and start to have some people notice what's going on. It's definitely a vote of confidence and makes you feel good that all the hard work you put in is starting to pay off."
After wrapping up the instructional league this weekend, Maron will return to Long Island, where he plans to continue his offseason workouts with Joe Francisco at the Performance Factory in Farmingdale as well as the Professional Athletic Performance Center in Garden City -- alongside Jose Reyes and other local players.
"That's a big thing to be able to be there with those guys," Maron said. "You don't want to finish last in any of those drills."