Wednesday, December 12, 2001
KAILUA-KONA >> As the New York Mets debate whether to send Benny Agbayani to Tokyo, the Hawaii-born outfielder is spending his vacation at a Big Island resort contemplating his future.
Agbayani awaits his fate
The Mets appeared close nearly two weeks ago to trading the former St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific University star to the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants in exchange for Japanese pitcher Satoru Komiyama.
Komiyama, 36, has already signed with the Mets, meaning Agbayani may be the player to be named later in the deal.
"I should find out by the end of the week," Agbayani said Monday from the Hilton Waikoloa Village. "It's not definite that I'm going to Japan; there's no contract yet."
Agbayani, who turns 30 on Dec. 28, said he wouldn't mind playing in Japan.
"I get excited wherever I play, as long as I get a paycheck," he said. "If I do go, I won't look at it as a step back, I'll just look at it as another season for me. I'm not a young man anymore."
Agbayani, who has played for the Mets since 1998, hit .277 this year with six homers and 27 RBIs in 296 at-bats and is viewed as a good fourth outfielder but no better.
On March 30 last year, he had a pinch-hit grand slam at the Tokyo Dome in the 11th inning to give the Mets a 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Agbayani, who admits he doesn't speak Japanese, said he would have to adjust his hitting in Japan and would need to get used to the new pitchers.
"I know just about every pitcher in the National League, so if I do play over there, it will just be a matter of getting to know all of them as well," he said.
Agbayani played in the World Series in 2000 against subway series rival New York Yankees. The Mets lost the series 4-1.
Since then, Agbayani has become even more popular in Hawaii. "It really makes me proud to see how the people have reacted," he said. "It's also been great seeing the people of Hawaii cheering for me and following baseball."
The Mets and Agbayani did not have a good 2001 season.
The Mets finished with an 82-80 record, while Agbayani was limited to 91 games, primarily because of injuries which resulted in season-ending surgery. He hit just six homers and drove in 27 runs.
But 2001 wasn't a total loss for Agbayani, who became a father of a baby girl who he calls the highlight of his life.
Agbayani also started the Myth Youth Foundation, a statewide non-profit organization that aids youth baseball teams.
If a team needs money for equipment or travel costs, they can apply for funding through the charity.
"I wanted to do something that helps the kids and promotes baseball," he said. "We're really hoping it's going to be successful."