Mets Players Honored at Luncheon at Café Rubio in Queens

Howard Goldin

Café Rubio, an excellent Latin food bistro in Queens, was the site of the second Latino baseball luncheon in a week that was presented by El Mundo de lasGrandesLigas. One week earlier DellinBetances, Jose Ramirez and Tony Peña were saluted at HolaEspaña in the Bronx. As the scene shifted to Queens, the spotlight now fell on Latino players of the Mets.

Two players only 17 days apart in age were honored on Wednesday. The elder, Jereuys Familia, born on October 10, 1989, was introduced by Sadiel Lebrón.  The big, right-handed pitcher was signed as a non-drafted free agent at the age of 17 by the Mets. It was initially expected that he would be a starting pitcher as he started 108 of his first 109 games in the minor leagues. He told the reporters present that being a reliever does not disturb him,

“My dream was to play baseball. I am in the bullpen now. The more opportunities one has to pitch the more confidence one gets.” At the time he spoke these words, Familia had pitched in 43 games this year, the most on the Mets.

The native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic made his big league debut with the Mets on September 4, 2012. The young pitcher missed more than four months last season after having right elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and loose bodies. Familia responded to a query about his injury, “I had to accept and try my best to come back.My muscles have to accommodate themselves to my pitching routine.”

The younger of the two players, Rubén Tejada, born on October 27, 1989, was introduced by Felix deJesus. Tejada was signed by the Mets as a non-drafted free agent one year before Familia, at the age of 16. The Panamanian played for his native country in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Tejada was on the opening day roster of the Mets in 2010 and made his debut for them on April 7. His improved batting earned him more games with the team in each of the successive next two seasons. Like Familia, injuries interrupted his 2013 season. Two stints on the DL cost him approximately two months of the season.

Early in the 2014 season, Tejada’s batting prowess was criticized and he was replaced for a short time by Wilmer Flores. He was asked how he tries to improve his batting, “I do everything possible to improve, i.e., watch videos, engage in discussions and listen to advice. I don’t try to hit home runs, just make contact.”

Each of the 24 year-olds also took time to give credit to a number of individuals who encouraged and helped early in their respective careers.

The purpose of the event is to allow the Spanish language media representatives an opportunity to conduct a question and answer session in a very civilized setting, without being rushed or in a combative manner and in their native language to elicit as much information as possible for their readers and viewers. Using the native language of the players permits them to fully explain themselves without need of an interpreter and to feel comfortable without any needless pressure.

Both of the emcees moved the program quickly and created a comfortable atmosphere for all present. Every questioner was given an opportunity to raise his/her queries. A good number of the Spanish language media was present along with one member each of the English and Japanese media. The program was conducted totally in Spanish, but the other two media members were treated with the greatest courtesy, consideration and feeling of inclusiveness.

Another Mets guest of honor was Melissa Rodriguez of the Mets media relations department. She spoke clearly and strongly of her desire to facilitate any legitimate needs of the media.. Credit for the success of the event should also be extended to the sponsors, Café Rubio, Ron Barceló, Big Apple Sports Awards, Merengue Limo and Car Service and the Canelo-Lara fight hosted at the MGM Grand Hotel In Las Vegas on July 12.