Ken Davidoff has a column in Friday’s post that will leave “Negative Nellie” Met fans howling. Davidoff features a utility infielder, a local kid from New Jersey, who signed a minor league contract with the Mets over the winter, was invited to camp, and as Davidoff sees it, has a legitimate chance to make the team coming north in April.
This could be baseball’s “feel good” story of the 2014 season. His name is Anthony Seratelli. He’s a scrappy, 31-year old infielder who has been fighting for recognition and respect on the baseball diamond since he first wore a glove.
Seratelli was cut from his Old Bridge High School baseball team as a freshman. Overlooked by college recruiter’s everywhere, Seratelli walked on the the field at Seton Hall and made the team. The pattern of overlooks and disappointments continued when Seratelli attracted no major league notice during the draft.
But, Seratelli loves the game of baseball, and his uneven path finding his way up baseball’s ladder steeled him to take nothing for granted and to search for alternative means to prove he could play.
That alternative path saw Seratelli spending a year formally out of the game after graduating from college before playing in 2006 for the Windy City ThunderBolts of the Frontier League. Seratelli’s play in an open tryout at the Kansas City Royals complex caught the eyes of some Royal personnel and at long last, on his 24th birthday, the persistent infielder signed his first contract to play professionally.
Nothing has come easy for Seratelli over seven years in the Royals system. Slowly and painstakingly, the gritty Seratelli has moved up through the system from Rookie-level ball in the Pioneer League all the way to Triple-A in Omaha where he played in 2012 and 2013. As Davidoff aptly put it, Seratelli was too good a player to cut loose but not quite good enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.
“I’ve been beaten down. I just keep trying to get there,” Seratelli told Davidoff.
This winter, the Mets were one of two teams (Tampa Bay was the other) to inquire about Seratelli’s services. With the Mets fluid shortstop situation, Seratelli liked his odds of turning heads in Port St. Lucie when Terry Collins indicated the team would like to give him a look at shortstop during spring training.
Both Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson have mentioned his name at spring training camp, a sign that Collins is true to his word. Alderson noted the Met brass likes Seratelli’s profile.
Seratelli has several assets the Mets like. He’s a switch hitter with the versatility that is a valued commodity in a utility player. In trying to do everything possible to catch on with a team, he has equipped himself to play every infield position as well as both corner outfield spots. Davidoff notes Seratelli’s plate discipline as proven by the .276/.372/.418 numbers he’s posted in over 3,200 minor league plate appearances. And, Seratelli runs the bases well swiping 184 bags at an impressive 80.7 success rate.
“I’m very proud of my on-base-percentage. I feel it gets overlooked a lot,” Seratelli told Davidoff. “But, its been brought up quite a bit here, which I’m happy about. I know that the Mets are high on that. I hope that makes me help the team.”
Last season it was Scott Rice who charmed New York baseball fans with a grit an determination that saw him finally make his major league debut after pitching for 14 years in the minor leagues. Rice’s rises to Flushing drew howls from the skeptics, but the lanky lefty won over most Met fans with his impressive outputs out of the bullpen.
Rice’s story line differs from Seratelli. Rice entered professional baseball as a highly regarded first round draft pick in 1999 but injuries and bad luck slowed his progress. At no point in his baseball career has Seratelli drawn the raves and attention that Scott Rice once enjoyed. It’s the iron will, the stubborn perseverance, and the refusal to give up on a dream that links the two determined Mets.