Edwin Diaz’s baseball collection will never be 100% complete, and he’s content with that. After wrapping up the Mets’ 1-0 Opening Day victory over the Braves Friday afternoon at Citi Field, the Mets’ closer handed the ball to Mets manager Luis Rojas, a forever token of the first-year manager’s first win.
“Usually, I take the last out of every save that I get and I take it home with me,” Diaz said. “But, for certain occasions, I decide to give it to the people who deserve it, so for him to be able to win his first game as a manager, I had to give. I couldn’t take that ball with me.”
The circumstances surrounding Rojas’ first win in the major leagues were just as odd as the circumstances surround his late-January hiring. After 13 seasons bouncing around the organization, Rojas was hired on January 23, a week after the team parted ways with Carlos Beltran because of his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Six months later, Rojas made his managerial debut in front of no fans at the ballpark. His family, including father, former Expos/Giants manager Felipe Alou, and brother, former All-Star outfielder Moises Alou, watched from afar.
“This is how times are, living away, and I haven’t seen them in a while,” Rojas said before the game. “But, I’ll feel them watching, I’ll feel their support.”
Rojas said he spoke to his father, who was watching in Florida, before the game.
“He gave me the blessing,” Rojas said. “We’re believers so he just said ‘have a good season, God bless,’ things like that. That was the kind of conversation that we had and we’ll have a similar conversation now when I get to call him after the [media conference].
“It’s a great day and I hope he’s really proud of the moment.”
Rojas’ wife and son were watching in New York, he said.
Despite the oddity, a win is still a win and it tasted pretty sweet.
“I’m very excited,” Rojas said.
He said he spent the night before his first game as a manager texting with friends around the league and watching the opening night baseball doubleheader on ESPN.
“I did get my sleep, get my rest, and get my preparation done like I do at home,” Rojas said.
After the win and the baseball exchange, he was treated to some socially distanced clubhouse frivolity when he was doused with a celebratory shower from his players.
“I don’t know what they threw on me, but they threw a lot of stuff,” Rojas said. “There’s some protein shake and maybe some Jello mix. I feel sticky.”
If sticky is the feeling of a major-league win, he’ll certainly take it.