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Thursday, March 30, 2000

Agbayani’s slam
means victory
for N.Y. Mets

The team recently said he
was going to the minors
to make room on the
roster for a pitcher

Full coverage of the game

Staff and wire reports


As recently as last year, many people thought Benny Agbayani would end up playing professional baseball in Japan. But no one expected he would be hitting home runs for the New York Mets in Tokyo.

Earlier today, Agbayani blasted a pinch-hit grand slam in the top of the 11th inning, as the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs, 5-1, completing Major League Baseball's opening series in Japan.

Agbayani, a former star at St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific University, was told by the Mets that he would be sent down to Triple-A Norfolk on April 9 to make room for another pitcher.

"I'm going to make them make a tough decision," the outfielder said after his home run today.

After a breakthrough season last year, Agbayani felt he had earned a roster spot with the Mets, and asked for a trade last week.

"I'm glad he was here today, that's for sure," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "Benny's a big boy, and baseball's a game that's not always fair."

Never deemed a top prospect, Agbayani was drafted by the Mets in the 30th round in 1993. He battled through the minors to the big team in 1998, and for the past several seasons, has been scouted heavily by Japanese teams.

Agbayani has
a blast in Japan

His grandslam in the 11th
inning today sparks the
Mets past the Cubs

Associated Press


TOKYO -- In a game featuring strange sights -- Rey Ordonez making an error, and Cubs manager Don Baylor not shaking hands with New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine -- perhaps the most unexpected one at the Tokyo Dome today was Benny Agbayani hitting the first slam of the 21st century.

Agbayani, a standout for St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific University, recently was told he would be sent to Triple-A Norfolk on April 9, when Glendon Rusch is promoted to be the Mets' No. 5 starter. Agbayani did not take the demotion well, and asked for a trade.

But the Mets, having room for an extra player, instead took the Agbayani to Japan.

And the decision paid off.

Agbayani's two-out drive to dead center field made it a disappointing major league debut for loser Danny Young (0-1).

Young emerged from the bullpen -- located underneath the stands, near the dugout -- to pitch the 11th after nine years in the minors. He retired the first two batters, but Todd Zeile singled, and walks to Ordonez and Melvin Mora loaded the bases.

Agbayani batted for reliever Dennis Cook and connected for the Mets' first pinch-slam since Todd Hundley's on May 4, 1995.

In Japan, hits that end the game in the bottom half of an inning are called "sayonara" hits. Agbayani's blow did not qualify for that title, not that it mattered to him or the Mets.

The Cubs stranded a pair of runners in the ninth and left the bases loaded in the 10th when Cook (1-0) struck out Henry Rodriguez.

Baylor said the Cubs enjoyed their week-long stay in Japan, adding, "I think everyone in the locker room is ready to go home."

Both teams have three days off before resuming the season Monday.

Ordonez's streak of 101 straight games without an error, a major league record streak for shortstops, ended when he charged in and overran Damon Buford's roller in the first inning.

It was his first error since last June 13 against Boston, a span in which he cleanly handled 418 chances.

The three-time Gold Glove showed no ill effects, however, later making a nifty play up the middle on Sammy Sosa's grounder and taking part in two double plays. The Mets turned six DPs in the series.

But Zeile, the newcomer to New York's slick infield, made a wild throw to set up an unearned run in the fifth that made it 1-all.

A pair of walks and a sacrifice by pitcher Rick Reed led to Rickey Henderson's sacrifice fly in the fifth.

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