Mets Draft: David; Jordan; Fairfield players

July 13th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Before becoming a Mets draftee with big league aspirations, Levi David could have been an Olympic swimmer.

A Texas state champion in the 50-yard freestyle event, David’s personal best time was 20.4 seconds -- mere tenths off the minimum needed to qualify for the Olympic trials. Given a chance to train full time for that event, David believes he could have made a run at an Olympic team.

Instead, he chose baseball, where David used one of the best curveballs in the country to strike out 15.34 batters per nine innings -- the third-highest rate in the country -- as a senior at Northwestern State University in Louisiana. It was enough for the Mets to take him in the ninth round of the Draft.

“Swimming’s one of those sports where all the little muscles that you don’t normally use are being utilized,” David said. “In baseball, I was always someone who was really healthy. My shoulder never had any problems. I’ve never really had any elbow problems. I feel like because of swimming, I was strong enough, my ligaments were very strong, and I just never really had to worry about the injury side of baseball.”

Choosing one sport over the other was a relatively easy decision for David, despite his success in both. In high school, David routinely attended 6 a.m. swimming practice before class at 8 a.m., then baseball practice after school, followed by a night session of swimming on his own. Originally recruited to swim at Texas A&M, David changed his mind after thriving as a senior pitcher with a 1.33 ERA.

“I knew that baseball was ultimately what I loved way more than swimming, but I didn’t know it was going to be a possibility to do,” David said. “I knew I had swimming. But when I got the opportunity to do both, I chose baseball.”

David’s success in that sport stems from a game of catch he had as a kid with his father in their hometown of Waxahachie, Texas. He distinctly recalls his dad teaching him how to throw a curveball, which David took to immediately -- “just like magically the best curveball that a little kid can throw,” he said. Over the years, David refined it, shaping the pitch sometimes as a classic 12-6 hammer and other times as more of a slurve.

This season, opponents went 5-for-98 with 80 strikeouts against David’s curve, which featured a 72 percent swing-and-miss rate.

“My whole career, it’s been the same pitch, the same grip,” David said. “So I’ve been throwing it forever.”

Bulldog connection
Two days after drafting Kumar Rocker with the 10th overall pick in the first round, the Mets chose a player who knows how to hit him.

That’s no slight against Rocker, one of the most-hyped Draft selections in franchise history. It’s just that 11th-round selection Rowdey Jordan hit nearly everyone during his fourth-year junior season at Mississippi State, which beat Rocker and Vanderbilt en route to the first College World Series championship in program history. Jordan’s season culminated with a 3-for-6 performance in the decisive Game 3 of the finals, with all three hits coming against Rocker.

“It’s everything you could ever imagine,” Jordan said in an NCAA interview that night. “Coming out on top in our last year here, winning the whole championship with the fan base here -- if you look around, it’s all maroon and white, everybody cheering us on. It’s amazing.”

All told, Jordan hit .303 during the College World Series, scoring what proved to be the decisive run off Rocker in the finals.

The Mets have plenty of experience with Mississippi State players, and not only because their area scout, Jet Butler, is a former player there. Last year, the Mets selected Bulldogs ace J.T. Ginn in the second round. Two years ago, it was outfielder Jake Mangum in the fourth and pitcher Cole Gordon in the 32nd.

“That’s a pretty neat thing for those guys to be able to play together again in our organization,” Mets amateur scouting director Marc Tramuta said.

Looking local
Those Mississippi State Bulldogs aren’t the only former teammates with a chance to move up together through the Mets' organization. Late on Day 3, the Mets selected a pair of players from Fairfield University in Connecticut: pitcher Trey McLoughlin and shortstop Justin Guerrera. They are the first Mets Draft picks ever from Fairfield, a small private university located less than 50 miles from Citi Field.

Shortly after the Mets selected McLoughlin in the 16th round, Guerrera sent him a congratulatory text. McLoughlin replied telling him that his own time was coming soon.

“Sure enough, that text came true, and my name was called,” said Guerrera, who went to the Mets with their final pick in the 20th round.

Only 20 Fairfield players have ever been drafted. Of those, Keefe Cato is the only one to reach the Majors, appearing in 12 games from 1983-84.

This Fairfield team is coming off perhaps the best season in program history, with a 33-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference record that earned the Stags an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Fairfield won its first 27 games thanks in large part to McLoughlin’s pair of 11-strikeout games and Guerrera’s university-record-tying 13 homers. Fairfield later knocked off perennial powerhouse Arizona State at the NCAA Regionals before finally falling to second-ranked Texas.

Along the way, McLoughlin and Guerrera developed into friends off the field, after initially meeting as teenagers on the tournament circuit. When Fairfield was recruiting Guerrera, who is a year younger than McLoughlin, he spoke to his more experienced friend for advice on his decision.

“He definitely thought I’d fit in well, and he was right,” Guerrera said. “So it’s really cool to continue my journey with him and really embark on a professional career.”