PHILADELPHIA — George Charles Baumann IV has a lot of names, but you can call him Buddy.
Long before Buddy Baumann, the Mets’ newest reliever, embarked on a 10-year pro career, including 35 major-league games with the Padres since 2016, he accidentally assigned himself a nickname that has stuck through his many stops and survived his attempt years ago to revert to George.
When he was a kid, Baumann’s parents called him Buddy, as parents do. The family moved from greater Chicago to Kentucky when he was 7.
“My first season of baseball down there, they said you could put any name on the back of your jersey, your nickname or anything else,” said Baumann, 30. “ ‘Oh, cool, I’ll put Buddy on there.’ So that’s how everybody met me. Being a 7-year-old, I thought it was better than George. It stuck.”
Baumann is proud of his family names — “It’s a good, strong name,” he said — and his 7-month-old son is George Charles Baumann V. But Buddy followed Baumann through his formative years, to Missouri State, to the Royals’ farm system after he was chosen in the seventh round of the 2009 draft.
That began his winding journey to the Mets’ bullpen, where he joins a group of relievers — Hansel Robles, Jacob Rhame and Corey Oswalt among them — who are riding the proverbial shuttle between the majors and Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets claimed Baumann off waivers from the Padres on April 27, and in 12 Triple-A games this year, he has a 0.79 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Manager Mickey Callaway cited the high spin rate on Baumann’s fastball as a reason the Mets were interested.
Baumann joins a bullpen that has only one other lefty, Jerry Blevins, who has allowed lefthanded hitters to compile a .273/.333/.364 slash line this year.
“It’s where I’ve been wanting to be,” Baumann said. “This year has been fighting to get back and get my place again. This is a new team and a new opportunity. It’s going to be fun to work and establish myself.”
Baumann’s story is one of perseverance. He didn’t make it to the majors with his original team, the Royals, but signed a minor-league deal with San Diego two years ago. He made his big-league debut — one pitch and one out against the Giants on July 16, 2016 — as a 28-year-old. He has been through many promotions and demotions since, compiling a 3.58 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in parts of three seasons.
For the seven years between his being drafted and his debut, Baumann promised himself he’d be honest with himself. Fulfilling his major-league dream was never a given — or even a likelihood. He is a soft-tossing lefthanded reliever, not exactly the type of player who shoots up prospect rankings.
“Early on, I had to make sure in my mind that I would be self-aware,” Baumann said. “Through my time with the Royals, I had to step back and look a little bit. If it was time to step away, I’d be completely cool with it and I wouldn’t regret things. But it never happened. I had success and kept on fighting.”
Baumann’s first day as a major-league Met on Friday was an unusual one. He had a one-game suspension stemming from his involvement in the Padres-Rockies benches-clearing incident last month, so after arriving at Citizens Bank Park and going through the pregame workout with his new teammates, Baumann left the ballpark, grabbed some sushi and headed back to the team hotel. But he couldn’t get the game on TV or MLB’s app, so he settled for keeping an eye on the play-by-play via Gameday while reading “Crime and Punishment.”
Baumann tries to use his free time more constructively than burying his head in his phone, so he’s a big reader. “I needed some fiction in my life,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of nonfiction.”
Baumann’s second day as a major-league Met was almost as strange. The Mets and Phillies were rained out, so two days into his promotion, he hasn’t been around for a game yet.
When the Mets need to clear a roster spot for Jacob deGrom to start Sunday’s game, Baumann will be a candidate to be demoted. But if he’s the unlucky one, bet on Buddy Baumann being back. He didn’t give up as a free-agent career minor-leaguer in his late 20s and he won’t give up now.
“I still had a lot of fire in my bones, and I still do,” Baumann said. “When that fire goes out, then you start thinking [about retirement]. But I don’t assume the fire will ever leave me.”