PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The year was 2009 and Jeurys Familia was a 19-year-old who didn’t speak much English. The Mets brought Familia to brand-new Citi Field to honor him for winning the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year award.
Among the dignitaries Familia met that day was the greatest pitcher in team history, the one they called “The Franchise” — Tom Seaver.
“I just said ‘Hi,’ ’’ Familia recalled Saturday morning. “I was a kid. I didn’t speak English like today. I didn’t have the confidence to go and talk with somebody like him. But I know he was one of the best pitchers ever in the major leagues. Good person. Great teammate. I heard some good things about him.”
Seaver was on the minds of the Mets in spring training and beyond after his family revealed on Thursday that the 74-year-old Hall of Famer recently was diagnosed with dementia and is retiring from public life.
Familia is one of a handful of current major-leaguers who have met Seaver, whose last appearance at Citi Field was at the 2013 All-Star Game, when he threw out the first pitch.
Seaver will not attend June’s 50th anniversary celebration of the 1969 world champion Mets, but the club is planning to honor him in ways that will be announced shortly.
Seaver’s Mets legacy lives on in their talented starting pitchers, including reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and flame-throwing righthander Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard, who grew up in Mansfield, Texas, said he was an admirer of Nolan Ryan, Seaver’s 1969 Mets teammate.
When asked what he thinks of when he hears the name “Tom Seaver,” Syndergaard said: “I know he’s iconic in this organization. Left a legacy for generations after him to follow. He had a tremendous career that anybody could admire.’’