The last time Ruben Gotay stood on a field as a member of a New York-based team, the stakes were gigantic. It was September 30, 2007 and the Mets, Gotay’s former team, were playing the final game of the regular season in which they lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play in the National League East.
Gotay mostly watched the havoc from the Shea Stadium bench, flying out to deep leftfield in his only at-bat, a pinch hitting turn in the bottom of the sixth. By then, the game was long decided. Tom Glavine blew up early and the season, as well as Gotay’s 98-game tenure as a Met, was unceremoniously put to rest.
“We believed that we were good enough to go deep into the playoffs,” Gotay, 33, said Thursday, minor-league miles away from that missed opportunity. “We will always think that way.”
Now, Gotay will look to right the wrongs of that stumbling September, albeit on a bit of a smaller stage. The Ducks signed Gotay Monday, bolstering their infield and adding yet another former major-leaguer to their roster. Gotay is one of eight Ducks players to have tasted the sport’s highest level.
Gotay played parts of four seasons with the Mets, Royals, and Braves. Over that period, he hit .255 with 12 home runs and 77 RBIs in 316 games. In 98 games with the Mets, he hit .295 with four home runs and 24 RBIs.
Gotay began this year in the Mexican League, but was released four games into the season because his team, Saraperos de Saltillo, needed a pitcher. It was the Ducks’ enthusiasm, Gotay said, that attracted him back to New York.
“We were looking at the Atlantic League and some other teams in Mexico,” Gotay said “But, the Ducks jumped ahead and gave me a chance. That’s why I’m here right now.”
The level of play in the Atlantic League, a place where major-league scouts routinely roam, only helped matters.
“It’s pretty good competition,” Gotay said. “Every team you face has pretty good players, including the pitchers. I need that adrenaline and competition. I love to play the game. Being with the Ducks makes me feel that way.”
Gotay was solid in his first five games with the Ducks. Entering Saturday night’s game against the Somerset Patriots, he was hitting .300 with two doubles and two RBIs in 20 at-bats.
After a 9-3 win on Friday against rival Somerset, the Ducks were 1 1⁄2 games back of the Patriots in the Liberty Division. The two teams, baring a massive losing streak or outlandish surge by either one, figure to battle for the first half title in the division. After this afternoon’s series finale, the two will not play again in the first half. The first-half winner earns an automatic berth into the playoffs.
The week ahead
The Ducks return home Tuesday for three games with the Bridgeport Bluefish and four with the expansion New Britain Bees.
Bridgeport appears destined for the cellar in the Liberty Division. Entering play Saturday night, the Bluefish were 9 1⁄2 games back of first place in the first-half standings. New Britain, despite taking two of three from the Ducks in their first series, look to be fading as well. They were 5 1⁄2 games out of first place entering action Saturday night.