Hamel set to honor late mother in Classic

No. 12 prospect impresses in spring debut before joining Team Puerto Rico

February 24th, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Eleven days before he was drafted in 2021, ’s mother passed. It was understandably a difficult time for Hamel, who found himself “in a bad headspace” as the season ended and a new one began. Hamel struggled in his first two months of full-season ball. In his shoes, most people would.

As Hamel grieved, his support system mobilized, including his father who lives within driving distance of the Mets’ Florida complex. When Hamel earned a midseason promotion from Single-A St. Lucie to High-A Brooklyn last year, he leaned on other relatives who live in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and could drive down to see him pitch.

Just as impactful for Hamel could be what comes next. In March, he will pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, allowing him to honor the heritage from his mom’s side of the family.

“Having this opportunity to represent her and my grandfather, I know it was in God’s will for me,” Hamel said.

Although Hamel grew up in Arizona, attended college in Texas and speaks with a distinctly American accent, he has what he calls “dirty blood” -- his grandfather was born in Puerto Rico, and his background also includes links to Italy and Mexico. At some point last year, he began discussing the WBC with St. Lucie pitching coach Victor Ramos, who used his connections with the Puerto Rican club to garner Hamel an invite.

Despite its strong provisional roster, Puerto Rico needed pitching. Hamel provided a high-upside answer. Recently, Mets manager Buck Showalter suggested that Hamel, a third-round Draft pick in 2021 and the organization’s 12th-ranked prospect, could slot as high as third in the Puerto Rican rotation behind José Berríos and Marcus Stroman.

For practice, Hamel received a call to big league camp on Friday to start an intrasquad game in front of a ticketed crowd (including his father and stepmother) at Clover Park. Showalter didn’t take it easy on the rookie, stacking the opposing lineup with a group of veterans including Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and one of Hamel’s WBC teammates, Francisco Lindor. Despite battling control issues in the first of his two innings, Hamel did not allow a run.

At one point, Hamel sped up his delivery to such an extent that Lindor, who was on first base, called out his name and urged him to collect himself.

“He was amped up,” catcher Tomás Nido said.

Mostly, Hamel pitched to his scouting report, including a fastball that ran into the mid-90s and a sharp breaking ball. Less than a week shy of his 24th birthday, Hamel has a chance to rise quickly through the Mets’ system, with perhaps an aggressive assignment to Double-A Binghamton in his future. Time will tell on that front. For now, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects is focused on preparing for the WBC -- an opportunity that is more meaningful for him than for most.

Said Hamel: “It’s definitely special to represent Puerto Rico for that side of the family and my mom.”