Wrestling, impressions and a concert violinist: Inside Mets' talent show

March 3rd, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Quick: what do Buck Showalter, a concert violinist and an oversized man named “The Bus” have in common?

All were notable parts of the Mets’ talent show on Friday, which featured around a dozen acts of various, um, abilities. The show was a relic of Showalter’s days in Baltimore, when he held a competition in 2013 that featured a pair of monkeys throwing batting practice and a spot-on Harry Caray impression.

This year’s competition was held at 9 a.m. in a Clover Park conference room, where players were instructed to leave their cell phones at the door. No videos. No social media. But some acts were too good to keep a secret.

Kodai Senga introduced himself to his teammates by singing “A Whole New World." His performance, according to those in attendance, was shining, shimmering, splendid.

“I don’t know if it was good or bad,” Senga said through an interpreter, “but they enjoyed it.”

Accounts of who won varied, but two acts in particular stood out. One was , the Caray impersonator from 2013 who is still, by all accounts, excellent at impressions. This year, he took a crack at Showalter himself, enlisting fellow reliever to serve as his sidekick -- faux pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.

The other was bullpen catcher Eric Langill, who dressed in full WWE garb and wrestled a man named “The Bus,” whose true identity remains unknown.

“One [act] was a little dangerous,” Showalter admitted.

Not all talents were of the untraditional flavor. Francisco Lindor’s wife, Katia, is an accomplished violinist who has played in concert halls in the past. She showed up and played “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran, as well as a classic rock song.

As for Lindor?

“My talent was bringing her,” he said, laughing.

As a team-bonding exercise, Showalter said, the talent show can actually be instructive, allowing him to see sides of players’ personalities that don’t normally surface. Participation is optional but has a history of mattering. Showalter claims that back in 2013, he chose McFarland, a Rule 5 Draft pick, for Baltimore’s roster based upon his willingness to embarrass himself in front of new teammates.

This year, Showalter purposely held the show at a point in camp when the first of several “lulls” set in -- the excitement of report date has largely worn off, as has the anticipation of games. The Mets will receive a reprieve from the schedule on Monday, when they have their first team off-day, after which more than a dozen players will depart for the World Baseball Classic. The talent show was a rare moment to gather all 62 players together for a bit of early morning fun.

“You look forward to it,” Showalter said. “It’s a good vibe. The guys looked forward to it and they took a lot of pride in it. These guys perform for a living, OK? This is what they do. They put themselves on the line to ridicule every night. You’ve got to have some guts to do it.”

If Showalter has his way, further details from the show will never emerge. But he acknowledges the interest.

Said Showalter (the real Showalter, not his impersonator): “They could have charged a lot of money for that.”