Pat Shurmur took a timeout Sunday before Monday’s kickoff of Giants OTAs to throw out the first pitch before the Mets-Diamondbacks game at Citi Field. The 53-year-old lefty wore a No. 60 Mets jersey. His throw came in on one hop and was wide right.
Big Blue’s new head coach threw up his hands sheepishly. But he was just happy to be here.
“This is a thrill for me,” said Shurmur, a Michigan native and former Michigan State offensive lineman who was wearing his old football number. “I’m a big baseball fan. I played baseball all the way until I went to college. I actually intended to play in college. I had an injury. But as a kid, I used to go to six to eight Tigers games a year.”
Shurmur, a pitcher/first baseman in his teen days, is enthused for the start of these OTAs. And he’s glad that Odell Beckham Jr., who’s coming back from a broken ankle, is expected to be there for the first one despite not having his desired new contract in place for mega-millions.
“Odell has been in and out, so he’s been around,” Shurmur said. “It’s very encouraging. I’ve developed a really nice relationship with him. We’re very open and honest about everything Giants and everything Odell. And so I’m just looking forward to him being there. He’s not quite finished with his rehab, but there’s still a lot to be learned by just watching what’s going on.”
Saquon Barkley, the first-round running back out of Penn State, has already been through rookie minicamp and has made a good first impression on Shurmur.
“He’s been great,” Shurmur said. “We haven’t been surprised by anything he can do. He’s an outstanding player. He’s been able to compete. He’s only really been here for a couple weeks. It’s going to be fun to watch him competing with the veterans.”
Shurmur is hoping to have the whole team on hand.
“As you all know, it’s still voluntary sessions,” Shurmur said. “But to this point, we’ve had a very productive offseason. The guys are really ready now to compete against one another. And so we’ve got 10 OTAs and a minicamp on the horizon here. I just really want the guys to compete, get better, execute my system and learn how to play well together.
“It’ll be another good opportunity for me to get to know our players. And I think that’s important, too, when you’re a new head coach.”
Mickey Callaway, like Shurmur, is in his first year in charge of a team in this market. The Mets’ manager had a chance to talk briefly with Shurmur before the special guest warmed up for his mound work in the indoor cage.
“As coaches in town, we’re rooting and pulling for one another,” Shurmur said. “It’s fun to watch the Mets. They’re a gritty, tough bunch . . . The way we left it was, when the craziness stops for both of us, maybe we’ll get together and have lunch or dinner or something.”