PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The 2015 Major League Baseball season officially began on Friday, as pitchers, catchers and veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer reported to spring training.
Storylines abound as baseball season begins, but perhaps no story is bigger than that of Cuddyer, who enters his first camp with the New York Mets lugging lumber that has thus far produced a lifetime batting average of .279 over the course of the 35-year-old slugger’s 14-year career.
While the vastly improved San Diego Padres figure to be the talk of the Arizona desert this spring, Grapefruit League gossip will no doubt focus on the thunderous stick of the Mets’ newly acquired right fielder, whose every springtime stroll to the batter’s box figures to bring about a feverish anticipation that could only be sparked by a player who has tallied nearly 190 homeruns since his 2001 debut with the Minnesota Twins.
“Without a doubt the talk of Florida is and will continue to be Michael Cuddyer,” longtime baseball writer Ken Rosenthal wrote in a recent column for FOX Sports. “All of baseball is on the edge of its seat, waiting to learn upon whom the aging two-time All-Star will unleash his considerable wrath.”
So while the return of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez from a year-long suspension has thus far garnered considerable attention, Rosenthal and his fellow scribes expect the ongoing saga of A-Rod to eventually die down as expectant fans shift their attention to the potentially Ruthian exploits of the up-and-coming Mets’ lone impact acquisition this winter. Fans of New York baseball’s insolvent second banana have already begun to fantasize about their strapping savior majestically mashing moon shots into the Flushing, Queens sky as Citi Field erupts in maniacal exultation.
“Each of his three trips to the disabled lists in 2014 will become a distant memory the moment Michael Cuddyer first fixes his formidable eyes on an opposing pitcher, immediately reducing his overmatched opponent to a fearful foe incapable of preventing the 2013 Silver Slugger Award winner from doing the kind of damage that only a hitter with 315 lifetime doubles can do,” said lifelong Mets fan Kirk Sagwood, who booked his spring training trip moments after the Amazins’ dogged pursuit of the former Colorado Rockie culminated with the Bunyanesque ballplayer signing a two-year, $21 million contract on the first day of the general managers’ meetings in November.
Such excitement is palpable in Port St. Lucie, where hopeful Mets fans tremble with near-orgasmic expectation whenever the slugger-cum-savior confidently steps onto the Tradition Field turf ready to build upon a legend that landed him a spot among the latter half of the league’s 40 most sought after free agents of the 2014-15 offseason.
“I don’t even want to speak His name for fear that my unworthiness to utter such a divine designation would only make Him angrier each time He digs in and toys with an adversary trusted with the unenviable task of containing His staggering vigor,” said Port St. Lucie resident and admitted Mets fan Levi Rubinstein. “That and I don’t want to jinx it and have this guy turn out to be the second coming of Jason Bay.”