PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- All told, Long Island is only 1,401 square miles in area, known more in athletic circles for lacrosse than for baseball. The Three Village Central School District constitutes less than 2 percent of the island, making it an unlikely area to produce two Major League
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- All told, Long Island is only 1,401 square miles in area, known more in athletic circles for lacrosse than for baseball. The Three Village Central School District constitutes less than 2 percent of the island, making it an unlikely area to produce two Major League players.
Let alone two in the same clubhouse.
Four years after Steven Matz made his Mets debut, another Ward Melville High School star, Anthony Kay, is in big league camp for the first time. Like Matz, Kay is a high Draft pick (31st overall in 2016), a left-handed starter and a Tommy John patient, having undergone the surgery shortly after signing as a pro. Now more than two years removed from that operation, Kay is the Mets’ eighth-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and their third-ranked pitcher. His goal? To follow Matz’s footsteps into the Mets’ rotation.
“I think it’s really cool having two guys from the same high school,” Kay said. “Our high school coach is pumped up about it.”
That longtime coach, Lou Petrucci, credits Matz in many ways for putting Ward Melville -- well off the beaten path of scouting hotbeds in California, Texas and Florida -- on the map.
“When Steven got drafted, baseball here was just something the lacrosse players that weren’t good enough wanted to do,” Petrucci said in a telephone interview. “But I always preached that baseball could be good at Ward Melville, too. … Steven showed everybody that baseball is good, too.”
Matz did enough at Ward Melville to earn a second-round Draft slot from the Mets. Their fans are now plenty familiar with him as an oft-injured but often-successful cog in the rotation. He had a 3.97 ERA last season over a career-high 154 innings.
Due to the age difference, Matz didn’t cross paths much with Kay in his youth, but he was aware of Kay largely because of Kay's budding middle-school romance with Matz’s sister.
“I knew of him,” Matz said, laughing. “He was always a really nice kid.”
While the young love may have fizzled, Kay’s athletic career didn’t. Pitching at Ward Melville, Kay did not allow an earned run his junior year. He won the 2012 Paul Gibson Award as the best pitcher in Suffolk County on Long Island, was selected by the Mets in the 29th round of the 2013 Draft and turned that down to go to UConn, where he became the school’s all-time strikeout leader. In 2016, the Mets once again came calling, this time taking Kay in the supplemental first round but shaving his bonus money due to a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.
Kay underwent surgery and finally debuted in 2018, posting a 4.26 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning over two levels of Class A ball. It was enough for him to earn an invitation to big league camp, where his locker is steps away from Matz’s.
“It’s probably the best I’ve felt since having the surgery,” Kay said. “Everyone always says it takes two full years to feel fully back to yourself, and I’m starting to feel a lot like how I felt before.”
At the time of his debut, Matz became the 15th Long Island high school alumnus to appear in a game with the Mets. A realistic career track would have Kay pitch mostly at Double-A this season and debut sometime in 2020, opening the possibility for him to become rotation mates with Matz.
“To see them both in Major League Spring Training on the big field, not the back fields, it’s really an unbelievable experience as a high school coach,” Petrucci said. “It’s exciting for everybody here at Three Village, everybody here at Ward Melville. The whole community is looking forward to watching Anthony and Steven be successful.”
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.