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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, March 31, 2000

M A J O R _ L E A G U E _ B A S E B A L L

Associated Press
Mets' pinch hitter Benny Agbayani is embraced by
Rey Ordonez after hitting his grand slam.

Benny still
on the bubble

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Local ties in the majors

By Dave Reardon


Despite a shot that was truly heard - and seen - around the world, Benny Agbayani told his wife yesterday that it probably won't help him stick with the New York Mets.

"He said he thinks the situation is the same," Niela Agbayani said from New York. "He will probably be sent down (to the minor leagues next week)."

The former St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific University standout hit a grand slam in the 11th inning in Tokyo yesterday. It gave the Mets a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs and a split of the first-ever regular-season games outside of North America, opening the 2000 Major League Baseball season.

Niela Agbayani was in Tokyo for the historic first game on Wednesday, in which Agbayani did not play. She was on her way back to New York when her husband hit the game-winning blast yesterday.

"I didn't hear about it until I got to New York," she said. "My friend Stacey O'Neill told me, 'Some guy named Benny hit a grand slam to win the game. Do you know him?' "

Agbayani and the rest of the Mets were returning to New York last night where the team meets the San Diego Padres on Monday.

As of yesterday, the Mets had announced no revision to a plan that has Agbayani reporting to Triple-A Norfolk on April 9 so that the big team can add an 11th pitcher, Glendon Rusch.

Agbayani may be the odd man out, partly because fellow outfielder Jay Payton is out of options - that means Payton could be taken by another team if the Mets try to send him down.

The team is trying to trade outfielder Rickey Henderson, but that might not make room for Agbayani because the most likely deal has Henderson going to Detroit for Bobby Higginson, another outfielder.

The word is that manager Bobby Valentine, a long-time Agbayani supporter, wants to keep him on the 25-man roster, but general manager Steve Phillips, who has the last say, does not.

Agbayani voiced his displeasure with the situation in the New York media last week and asked for a trade.

In interviews in Japan after the homer, he appeared to take a calmer approach, and spoke of doing whatever he could to help the team.

"I can just do what I get a chance to do," Agbayani told reporters.

He also enjoyed the moment, saying the home run was for Japan home run king Sadaharu Oh "because I have a leg-kick similar to his."

He also joked: "I was just hoping for a base hit because we don't work overtime (in America)."

Meanwhile, Agbayani's parents and other relatives went wild in front of the TV around 4:30 a.m. yesterday in Aiea.

"The neighbors probably thought we were nuts," said Faith Agbayani, his mother.

"We woke up the whole house when he came up to hit," she said. "We didn't think he was going to play."

The player's father, also named Benny Agbayani, said last night's home run was especially exciting because of his son's tenuous situation.

"I had a gut feeling that Benji would do something," the father said. "I was talking to the TV, telling him, 'Show the G.M. what you can do.' "

Agbayani thought he did that already. After eight years in the minors, he battled his way to the Mets and became a Shea Stadium favorite.

After an incredibly hot start in May, the 30th-round draft pick of 1983 finished at .286 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs in 276 at-bats.

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Local ties

Statistics of Hawaii's four most prominent major league players:

Bullet Benny Agbayani: New York Mets in 1999

Local tie: St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific University
1999 stats: 101 games, 276 at bats, 79 hits, 18 doubles, 3 triples, 14 home runs, 42 RBIs, 32 walks, 42 runs, 60 strike outs, 6 stolen bases, .286 batting average.

Bullet Onan Masaoka: Los Angeles Dodgers in 1999

Local tie: Waiakea High School
1999 stats: 2 wins, 4 losses, .333 pct., 4.36 ERA, 1 save, 66.2 IP, 61 K's, 47 BB, 55 hits.

Bullet Scott Karl: Milwaukee Brewers in 1999, Colorado Rockies in 2000

Local tie: University of Hawaii
1999 stats: 11 wins, 11 losses, .500 pct. 4.80 ERA, 0 saves, 197.2 IP, 74 K's, 69 BB, 246 IP.

Bullet Mike Fetters: Baltimore Orioles in 1999, Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000

Local tie: Iolani School
1999 stats: 1 win, no losses, 1.000 pct., 5.81 ERA, 0 saves, 31.0 IP, 22 K's, 22 BB, 35 hits.

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