It is not exactly breaking news that Shohei Ohtani is not a member of the Mets. And he might never join the franchise.
But the success the Angels’ two-way superstar has experienced may have affected the organization’s decision-making when it comes to Nolan McLean.
“I think Ohtani has really put a good spot in the big leagues for guys like me,” McLean told Newsday before Saturday night’s game against the Dodgers. “Obviously, that’s a pretty big name to look up to, but if I can be anywhere close to that guy, I’m doing all right.”
The Mets selected McLean in the third round — 91st overall — out of Oklahoma State, where he pitched and played both the infield and outfield for three years.
Over the course of his college career, McLean was 3-4 with 11 saves and a 4.55 ERA in 39 appearances and hit .270 with 36 home runs and 96 RBIs.
He finished the 2023 season with a .250 batting average, nine home runs and 29 RBIs. He also was 1-2 with six saves and a 3.30 ERA in 14 appearances.
After helping the Cowboys (41-20 overall, 15-9 in the Big 12 Conference) reach the College World Series, McLean met with organizational decision-makers at the draft combine in Phoenix. He left with the impression that the Mets are willing to have him pitch and hit.
“I think they’re open to it,” said McLean, who signed a contract worth $747,600 earlier in the day. “And I’m really excited to get going.”
Before McLean headed back to Stillwater to collect his belongings and wait to hear which minor-league outpost he will be assigned to, the Mets rolled out the red carpet for him and his parents, Derek and Tammy.
“It’s been a great experience,” Tammy McLean said. “It’s been great to be out here [to] see the facilities, and they just fed us, took some great pictures. [It’s] been a great experience. We’re really excited for him and the future. And being Mets fans.”
Ah, yes. For someone who grew up just outside Raleigh rooting for, at various points, Washington, Baltimore and Atlanta, the process of reorienting himself and his family into all things Mets and New York City has begun in earnest.
“It’s a lot different than back home,” said the 21-year-old, who thought it was his first time in the Big City. “It’s going to take some adjusting but it’s a pretty cool place.”
Though it essentially was a business trip, it was the culmination of a whirlwind week. The Mets selected McLean on Monday and he arrived Thursday.
“It was exciting,” McLean, one of six Cowboys selected, said of being drafted. “I had my family and my circle of people with me and we were able to celebrate, just hug everybody. Again, it’s just a step in the process. For me, obviously, the ultimate goal is to play in the big leagues, but it’s an awesome, awesome moment.”