With only 126 at-bats on his Major League résumé, New York Mets outfielder Lucas Duda was in the market for a much-needed pep talk, and that’s exactly what he got from an unlikely source in former Mets ace Tom Seaver.
While Seaver owns a justifiably mediocre .154 career batting average, he was the right man to uplift Duda’s spirits, as the two men share a similar bond.
Both played college ball at the University of Southern California, where Duda only saw Seaver in photos as he walked through Dedeaux Field, but now, as the former ace has taken an interest in the struggling outfielder, the Mets hope he can turn things around and become a much-needed spark off the bench.
“He told me to take it easy, have fun and exhale and remember you’re playing a game,” Duda told reporters Sunday before the Mets took on the Angles in an afternoon rubber-game matinée.
Let’s hope Duda, batting .143 with the big league team, can take these words to heart as he tries to replicate his 2011 success in Triple-A, where he averaged .302 with 10 home runs and a .591 slugging percentage in just 38 games.
“He said there’s a process in baseball," Duda said. "Before you get to step five, you have to go through one, two, three and so on.”
So it’s back to the basics for Duda as he learns to adjust to the bright lights of the big show, but don’t let his recent struggles fool you, because what’s obvious to talent evaluators and Mets fans as a whole is that this kid can flat-out hit.
“He’s a threat every time he walks to the plate,” Duda’s former manager Ken Oberkfell said after a game last season. “What I like is that he is using the whole field. He’s hitting the ball to left-center and he’s able to pull the ball.”
Whether it’s nerves, fear or the downright inability for his game to translate well to Citi Field, Duda has the potential to be great; however, the hard part is getting that greatness out of his 6’4”, 255-pound frame.
According to the nightly updated ESPN projections, Duda is expected to hit just .143/.208/.190 on the season, and now the ball is in Duda’s court to prove these numbers and the haters out there wrong, and it may have started Sunday with a little pick-me-up from Seaver.
"He kind of gave me a little pep talk," Duda said. "Obviously, when he speaks, I'm going to listen. I hope I can apply what he said and hopefully it will help me adjust better to the big league level. It was definitely a treat and something I'll remember for my whole life."
Christopher Howland is a New York Mets Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He also is currently interning with Rotoworld.com of NBC Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisHowland5