Monday, November 1, 1999
Benny put up
Agbayani says he expects to fight
for a regular spot in the Mets' lineup
next year instead of just a
spot on their roster
AGBAYANI'S CAREER STATISTICSBy Al Chase
BENNY Agbayani is enjoying the rewards of playing the majority of the 1999 baseball season with the New York Mets.
Agbayani and his wife Niela will spend much of the off-season in their Forest Hills, N.Y., home, about three minutes from Shea Stadium. They plan to return to Hawaii for the December holidays.
"The New York Mets have a lot of things for me to do the next couple of months," Agbayani said.
"There's people calling in for me to go and sign autographs. I meet business people, have lunch with them, explain to them about our season and about my career. I enjoy this. These are the people who supported us through the whole season.
"I've met some of the fans and all they say is we let them have a lot of headaches and heart attacks. They were were really into it. Fans tell me they are happy because we gave it our best shot."
And, there other perks that minor league players don't get. Agbayani does a radio commercial for the dealership that provided him with a car during the season. He is sponsored by Nike (money, merchandise, equipment) and Rawlings (glove). He and Niela also have the opportunity to attend Broadway shows.
"This is a great time to catch up on the shows. We try to catch at least one on each homestand," he said.
His favorite of the nine they took in this summer: "Fosse."
Agbayani's name may not be mentioned among the rookie of the year candidates, but the former St. Louis and Hawaii Pacific star compiled solid numbers in 101 games. He hit .286 with 14 homers, 18 doubles, three triples and 42 runs batted in.
He already has set goals for the 2000 season. He doesn't expect to be fighting for a spot on the Mets' roster next spring, but says he'll be battling for a position.
"I don't want to be a platoon player. I want to show the Mets I came be an everyday outfielder," Agbayani said. "That's going to be one of my goals for spring training. My other goals are to be more aggressive on the bases, to strike out less and to be a better defensive player.
"I've got to prove to people who think this past year was a fluke that they are wrong. You have to make sure you are consistent or better next year."
Agbayani's storybook season could easily have been played out halfway around the world. Scouts from Japan had watched him the past two springs and were more than interested in his talents. In fact, this past spring, if the Mets had been willing to deal him to a Japanese team, that would have been fine with Agbayani.
However, the Mets weren't willing to part with their 1993 30th round draft choice. Yes, he began the season in Triple A ball with Norfolk (Va.) in the International League. And, he played first base for the first time in his career.
But, a .356 batting average at Norfolk and a sputtering early-season Mets' offense led to his recall by the National League team. Agbayani spent the first three weeks in baseball's stratosphere, hitting well above .400, .500 at times. He belted 10 home runs in his first 63 at bats.
Mets manager Bobby Valentine was quoted in one wire story that he didn't expect Agbayani to hit .500 all season. He didn't, but received some timely advice from Orel Hershiser.
"He told me as a career goes along the way there always is going to be a high point, but you don't want your career to drop to a low point. You have to keep the drop on an even line," Agbayani said.
"My teammates were great. They were willing to listen and when they saw something happen that I could be corrected on, they would tell me. We're all in it to win and any little thing that can help us win, they are there. They know what it takes to win."
Agbayani termed the pennant race and NL Championship Series exciting.
"It was just outrageous to be in a playoff that serious. We were just battling to see who was going to win, who was going to the World Series," he said. "I've never been in a situation like that. That's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We were mentally and physically in the games, but mentally and physically drained afterward. This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
"I had a great year, had a lot of fun. Now I know what it's like. I know how hard I worked to get here and I'm going to keep on working hard because I don't want to go back to the minors.
"There is always somebody who wants your job. It's a business. You gotta go out there and play hard every single day otherwise, one day you're in majors, then you don't have a job or you're back in minors."
That won't happen if Niela can help it. The former Hawaii softball player didn't miss one Mets game, home or away. One of their routines is to talk about his performance after each game.
Agbayani hopes he gets a raise next season. He would like to buy a house in Hawaii, but noted houses in Hawaii are expensive.
Height: 5-11. Weight: 225. Throws: Right. Bats: Right.
BENNY AGBAYANI'S CAREER STATISTICS
Schools: St. Louis, Hawaii Pacific.
Batting recordYear, Team, League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg. 1993-Pittsfield, New York-Penn 51 167 26 42 6 3 2 22 .251 1994-St. Lucie, Florida State 119 411 72 115 13 5 5 63 .280 1995-St. Lucie, Florida State 44 155 24 48 9 3 2 29 .310 1995-Binghamton, Eastern 88 295 38 81 11 2 1 26 .275 1996-Binghamton, Eastern 21 53 7 9 1 0 2 8 .170 1996-Norfolk, International 99 331 43 92 13 9 7 56 .278 1997-Norfolk, International 127 468 90 145 24 2 11 51 .310 1998-Norfolk, International 90 322 43 91 20 5 11 53 .283 1998-New York, National 11 15 1 2 0 0 0 0 .133 1999-Norfolk, International 28 101 21 36 8 1 8 32 .356 1999-New York, National 101 276 42 79 18 3 14 42 .286 Minor League totals 667 2,303 364 659 105 30 49 340 .286 Major League totals 112 291 43 81 18 3 14 42 .278
Divisional seriesYear, Team, League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg. 1999-New York, National 4 10 1 3 1 0 0 1 .300
Championship seriesYear, Team, League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg. 1999-New York, National 4 7 2 1 0 0 0 0 .143
NotesDrafted in the 28th round, regular phase, by the California Angels, June 2, 1992. Did not sign.
Drafted in the 30th round, regular phase, by the New York Mets, June 4, 1993. Signed June 15, 1993.
Selected the best base runner in the New York Mets organization at the Triple A level in 1996.
Designated for assignment by the New York Mets, August 10, 1998.
Hit 10 home runs in first 63 at bats with New York Mets in 1999, the quickest any Met ever hit 10 homers.
Statistical notesFinished 25th in batting average (.280) in the Florida State League in 1994.
Had a Norfolk season-high seven runs batted in vs. Rochester, July 13, 1996, and an 11-game hitting streak, July 7-21, 1996.
Led Norfolk in triples (9), third in the International League in 1996.
Tied for second in stolen bases (29), tied for third in runs scored (90) and was eighth in batting average (.310) in the International League in 1997.
Led Norfolk in at bats (468), hits (145), stolen bases (29) and strikeouts (106) in 1997.
Stole 7 bases for Pittsfield in 1993; 8 for St. Lucie in 1994; 8 for St. Lucie and 12 for Binghamton in 1995; 1 for Binghamton and 14 for Norfolk in 1996; 29 for Norfolk in 1997, 16 for Norfolk in 1998 and 5 for Norfolk and 6 for New York in 1999.